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Shai Wosner, Pavilion Theatre, Brighton, May 27

05.31.11
Shai Wosner
The Argus

By Louis Schweitzer

We have become blasé about technical prowess at the keyboard. Brilliance has become the norm, virtuosity is taken for granted. But there are pianists and there are artists. Rarely do they collude as they did today in a Brighton Festival lunchtime concert given by Shai Wosner.

Shai Wosner's piano recital was all about variation. Variation of theme, of pianistic colour, variation of dynamic contrast, of tempi and of technique: variations in period from Handel to Knussen. Less tangible were the variations in mood, from sunny to sombre and from humorous to heavyweight. All were handled with charm, aplomb and respect; for the music and for the audience who knew it. There was an unmistakable stillness and concentration which never wavered, even in the unfamiliar variations by Oliver Knussen.

Shai Wosner played a Handel Suite, an early (and, unusually, on an original theme) set of Beethoven Variations, and the Brahms Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel. Choosing just some of the treats on offer: feathery baroque echo effects in Handel, lilting Viennese melodies lurking in Beethoven and thunderous majesty of the Brahms fugue.

Encores were a Schubert Hungarian melody and something new and strange. Knussen? Does it matter? It was all wonderful.