by Daniel Hathaway
Masterclasses and coachings are valuable, but hearing your mentors perform is one of the most inspiring features summer music festivals can offer their young artists. In his ambitious program that opened the 2019 Kent Blossom faculty series on Wednesday, July 3 in Ludwig Recital Hall, Cleveland Orchestra principal cello Mark Kosower gave a variety of object lessons to an audience largely populated by festival participants.
Before the music started, Festival director Ricardo Sepulveda introduced two special guests who were seated in the audience: Todd Diacon, the new president of Kent State University, and Kent McWilliams, the new director of the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music, both only three days into their new jobs.
Kosower and pianist Jee-Won Oh began with what was for Beethoven a relatively light confection: his Seven Variations on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fuhlen” (the duet for Papageno and Pamina from the first act of Mozart’s The Magic Flute). In the opera, it celebrates the relationship between husband and wife, perhaps setting up a little in-joke, since Kosower and Oh are a married couple. Their musical conversation was intimate and delightful, with flashes of easy virtuosity.
Fauré’s Second Sonata grew out of a French government commission for a funeral march on the centenary of Napoleon’s death. That solemn piece transformed itself into the second movement of Fauré’s late Op. 117 work, around which he wrapped a restless first movement and a frenzied finale.
Although the cello could become submerged in busy piano figuration in the outer movements, Kosower mostly sailed through the texture with his handsome, even tone. In the funeral march, his lyrical line was clearly dominant over the piano’s sturdy chords and accompanimental figures. The finale ended with an arresting gesture that climbed into the stratospheric region of the cello.
The big piece on the program ended the first half: Kosower’s transcription of J.S. Bach’s Second Solo Violin Sonata, which he played without score. The cellist went for a full, singing tone with abundant vibrato in the opening Grave. The longest movement, an energetic fugue, sets physical challenges for the soloist which probably sound less taxing on the violin. Kosower brought the piece home with a buoyant Andante and an athletic Allegro that inspired hearty cheers from the audience.
It was time for something more relaxing after intermission, and Kosower and Oh filled the bill with Ernest Chausson’s pretty and wistful Piece for Cello and Piano. The recital ended with Schubert’s affable “Arpeggione” Sonata, composed for a hybrid 6-stringed instrument — fretted and tuned like a guitar but played with a bow — that was popular for a brief period in the last decade of Schubert’s life.
The Sonata begins solemnly, but soon makes a nod to folk-like tunes. A tender slow-movement melody segues into a full-fledged folk dance with Romany origins. Kosower and Oh’s energetic playing at the end of the finale had the audience instantly on its feet.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com July 9, 2019.
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