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Steve Holtje
Culture Catch, December 2014

Best New Classical Albums of 2014

Koh and Wosner really brings out the passion of the Janáček, the former with luscious slides between notes, the former with sensitive dynamics, both with Romantic tempo fluctuations and surges. In the more mysterious, even ominous, world of the Bartók, Koh conveys its mercurial moods with a wide range of timbres. …the mostly short Kurtág pieces offer a playful change of pace both stylistically and sonically. © 2014 Culture Catch Read complete review

Lucy Jeffery
MusicWeb International, May 2014

On this CD, this ‘impressive partnership’—according to the New York Times—is realised as Wosner’s expressiveness and Koh’s intuitive playing come together. Tackling both abstract pieces and formidable repertoire these two approach each composition with freshness and vigour, tenderness and attention to detail. They let silences speak and dig into the depths of fraught tension whilst picking out elements of folk tradition. This is a fine album. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2014

Both Koh and Wosner play these pieces with a beautiful sense of characterisation.

Indeed they play everything with fiery commitment. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, March 2014

American violinist Jennifer Koh is an adventurous sort, leaning to performances of new and contemporary compositions as well as robust interpretations of old favorites. On Signs, Games & Messages she teams with Israeli pianist Shai Wosner for an album of twentieth-century works by Janacek, Bartok, and Kurtag that amply demonstrates her flexible playing style and enterprising spirit.

If you’ve been following my reviews of Cedille products over the years, you know I think highly of their audio reproduction. This one is no exception and sounds splendid. Both the piano and violin appear well focused and well balanced with one another, neither too close nor too far away. There is in addition to the fine clarity a small but helpful hint of room resonance, which provides a pleasant ambient bloom to the sound. Add to that a wide dynamic range, a quick transient response, and a realistic decay time, and you get a recording that pretty much puts the artists in your living room. © 2014 Classical Candor Read complete review

James H. North
Fanfare, March 2014

Koh and Wosner are superb in Bartók’s First Sonata. She expresses the full measure of the music without ever producing a single ugly or even awkward note; he is a powerhouse as well as a subtle presence. They do “milk the music” to its fullest intensity. It is astonishing that Koh’s elegant, liquid tones can be so assertive, matching Wosner at every step… listeners who prefer a purely beautiful violin should snap up this Cedille disc. © 2014 Fanfare Read complete review

David Kettle
The Strad, February 2014

Right from the start of this generously filled, folk-inspired disc, there’s no doubting the passion and intensity of US violinist Jennifer Koh’s vivid playing. She attacks the opening of the Janáček Sonata with a fast, narrow vibrato and a bright, strongly projected sound…Most of the time it’s a wonderfully effective approach, and a hugely characterful one…

Likewise in Bartók’s unforgivingly dissonant First Violin Sonata, Koh stresses the music’s sometimes brutal modernism, with a hard tone and bracing rhythms…it’s tremendously exciting…

Her natural feeling for characterisation comes into its own…in the set of Kurtág miniatures from Signs, Games and Messages and Játékok between the two sonatas. Koh’s spirited ‘Cadenza Jig’ more than lives up to its title, and her control of tone and pitch in the mournful ‘In memoriam Blum Tamás’ is superb.

Pianist Shai Wosner is a committed partner…it’s all captured in a bright, vivid recording. © 2014 The Strad Read complete review

Duncan Druce
Gramophone, February 2014

A fascinating, satisfying programme, bringing together three composers whose work is rooted in their local cultures, absorbed to form highly personal styles. The sequence of short Kurtág pieces…is especially effective, and the juxtaposition of humorous fancies with sharply etched poetic images is extremely stimulating.

Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner have clearly made great efforts to enter the expressive world of all the composers, and the performances show a high level of technical assurance. The account of the Janácek is one of the finest I’ve heard. The ‘Ballada’ creates a magical atmosphere, Koh and Wosner finding a wealth of tone colours within a restrained, delicate ambience so that the passionate outburst near the end is doubly striking. In the finale, the long lead-up to the climactic melody is perfectly paced, and Jennifer Koh’s muted tone at the start imparts just the right feeling of tension.

Koh and Wosner emphasise the impressionistic qualities of the first movement of the Bartók…their playing, always thoughtful and imaginative, casts an individual light on this complex, endlessly absorbing work. © 2014 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, January 2014

My eyes light up whenever I see a new Jennifer Koh CD from the Cedille label, and the latest release from this most intelligent of performers, signs, games + messages…certainly doesn’t disappoint. Koh is joined by pianist Shai Wosner in a recital that features works by Leoš Janáček, Béla Bartók and…György Kurtág.

…the performing and recording standard throughout is of the highest quality…Koh provides us with a fascinating journey through a carefully chosen and perfectly balanced program. © 2014 The WholeNote Read complete review

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, December 2013

The impression of a demented banshee suits performers and composer, and the keyboard contributes its own brand of manic emotions. If these sounds reflect the late-night strums of rhapsodic folk music, don’t forget a generous tip for their bold playing. © 2013 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

David Hurwitz, November 2013

Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner make an extremely impressive duo. The Janáček and Bartók sonatas are magnificently played. In the former, all the music’s passionate intensity and eruptive gestural language produces an unforgettable impression, especially in the second movement Ballade and concluding Adagio. The Bartók First Sonata also is a major work, and a tough piece written in the composer’s densest harmonic language. Here, there are magical moments such as the first movement’s impressionistic central episode and most of the ensuing adagio that very effectively play off of the gutsy rhythmic passages (in the finale especially). Listening is a joy. © Read complete review

Anthony Tommasini
The New York Times, November 2013

Janáček’s searching, strangely beautiful Violin Sonata and Bartók’s pugnacious, rhapsodic Violin Sonata No 1 turn up in recordings, but not often in accounts as gripping as these by the probing violinist Jennifer Koh and the dynamic pianist Shai Wosner. In an inventive stroke, this duo plays these formidable works along with a series of ingenious and impish pieces by the Hungarian modernist master Gyorgy Kurtag. A standout new recording. © 2013 The New York Times

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), October 2013

Grammy-nominated violinist Jennifer Koh and virtuoso pianist Shai Wosner play 20th-century works by three remarkable Central European composers who intertwine folkloric influences with their own unmistakable originality. The album includes Leoš Janáček’s Moravian-influenced Sonata for violin and piano, Béla Bartók’s impassioned Violin Sonata No 1, and compelling miniatures by György Kurtág. © 2013 WFMT (Chicago)

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