Pianist explores range of Schubert’s melodies

05.06.09
Shai Wosner
Omaha World Herald

Shai Wosner is a serious pianist who gave a no-nonsense performance Tuesday night at the Joslyn Art Museum.

Wosner, in town to close the Tuesday Musical concert Series' 2008-09 season, devoted his program to the solo piano music of Franz Schubert. He wasted no time getting started.

Shortly after 7:30p.m., he walked briskly onstage, bowed curtly and without pause launched into Scubert's Piano Sonata No. 13 in A major, D. 664.

One of the composer's most appealing creations, it was most likely composed around 1819 for Josefa von Koller, an amateur pianist and the daughter of a wealthy iron merchant. No doubt, Koller had captured the 22-year old composer's eye, since she apparently inspired such ardent music.

In fact, the opening Allegro moderato sounds more like an extended love song than a formal sonata exposition. The second-movement Andante is even more lyrical, while the finale is like a playful, even flirtatious, romp.

Wosner played with the right mix of melodic rapture and unrestrained melodrama, giving the sonata's opening 20 measures the simplicity and immediacy of a song verse. And he gave little hint of the dramatic tension to come, which made his ferocious fusillade of octaves in the development section seem all the more tragic.

In contrast to all this storm and stress, Wosner brought exceptional warmth and delicacy to the slow movement. He played the finale- which sounds playful but is full of treacherous right-hand figures- with a mix of emotional fire and waltzlike elegance.

Schubert's Six Moments Musicaux, D. 780, which came next, are familiar to anyone who has studied immediate piano. The works are relatively short, not especially difficult and brimming with charm and character.

Wosner played these pieces with barely a pause between, as if they were part of one single musical thought instead of six separate works. His playing was remarkable throughout for its polish, vitality and joy.

Tuesday's concert closed with one of Schubert's great works, the Piano Sonata No. 17 in D major, D 850, one of his most ebullient pieces. It's also vast, lasting nearly 30 minutes.

Wosner proved equal to the sonata's challenges, tossing off the first movement's impetuous march-like music with ease. He brought a haunting quality to the second movement's melodies, and he played both the scherzo and finale with energy and conviction.

At the end, Wosner bowed politely and left the hall without playing an encore. He did the right thing, since nothing could top that program.