Cellist strikes a fire in Coral Gables

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Gaps on the local classical music scene are so numerous, that one sometimes isn’t even aware of a specific absence until the void is filled. In eight years in South Florida, I can’t recall ever hearing a solo recital by a visiting cellist.

Kudos then to Mark Hart, artistic director of the Community Arts Program at Coral Gables Congregational Church, for breaking the violin and piano hegemony with the appearance of Mark Kosower Thursday evening. The extraordinary recital by the American cellist and pianist Jen-Won Oh served up one of the most outstanding concerts of the year, making the programming even more laudable.

Kosower, 31, earned several competition prizes in his youth and currently divides his time between solo appearances and weeks as co-principal cellist of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany. With his wife and recital partner Oh, Kosower presented a generous, uncommonly venturesome program that serves as a model of what a recital program should be.

His mild-mannered persona and relaxed ease on stage belie a fiery musical personality. The cellist from Eau Claire, Wisconsin possesses a stellar technique and his laser-like articulation and whirlwind bravura were rivetin in showpieces by David Popper.

But even more than the fireworks, what most impressed was Kosower’s intelligence, elegance, beauty of tone, and a keenly focused musicianship that was put entirely at the service of the music. With Oh an equally strong musical personality, the performances had a unified communicative thrust and impassioned level of engagement.

Bach’s Viola da Gamba Sonata in G minor, BWV 1029 made an apt calling card for the duo, in a stylishly turned reading, with vigorous counterpoint and buoyant rhythms. In the Adagio, Kosower took a very spacious approach but sustained it well, the burnished tone and rich but calibrated vibrato conveying the music’s stoic strength

It took seven years for Francis Poulenc to complete his Cello Sonata for Pierre Fournier, unusual for a composer who rarely had difficulty getting things done. The opening Allegro’s mercurial mix of light hearted caprice and passing shadows is wholly characteristic, and Kosower and Oh had full measure of this music. In the somber melancholy of the ensuing Cavatine, Kosower and Oh played with the greatest delicacy, marking the contrast with their vivacious teamwork in the ensuing boulevardier joie de vivre of the final two movements.

For a composer as popular as Mendelssohn. his two cello sonatas are comparatively little known (at least to non-cellists). The Cello Sonata No. 2 is a delightful work, which received first-class advocacy. Equally demanding for both players, the outer movements have the youthful exuberance and headlong excitement of Mendelssohn’s piano concertos and the duo’s hair-trigger virtuosity was well suited to this vivacious music.

Their recent Naxos CDs of Ginastera and Hungarian music were represented with shorter works. As indicated by its title, Ginastera’s Pampeana No. 2 was inspired by the rolling plains of the Argentine Pampas in music that mixes edgy driving momentum, with a sense of solitude amid florid solo passages. Kosower provided such sterling advocacy one wondered why Ginastera’s music is so rarely performed.

The Hungarian disc was represented byPopper and Zoltan Kodaly’s introspective Adagio, the latter given a warmly eloquent rendering enhanced by the glorious low tones of Kosower’s instrument.

A celebrated cello virtuoso and composer of the late 19th century, Popper wrote several brilliant showpieces for his instrument including the Hungarian Rhapsody. Kosower fairly attacked the music with blinding speed and lightning articulation in a thrilling performance that sailing effortlessly through the landmine of complexities.

For an encore, Kosower and Oh offered another Popper dazzler, Spinning Song, the rollicking pyrotechnical flash rounding off a terrific evening of music.

Posted in concert review, Performances

One Response to “Cellist strikes a fire in Coral Gables”

  1. Posted Aug 02, 2008 at 12:43 am by jogre 176

    First class review of a wonderful performance. Thanks for announcing it and sharing the joy.

    jorge 176

Leave a Comment

Fri Aug 1, 2008
at 9:56 pm
1 Comment