Schubert – Piano Sonatas “Reliquie’ Review

01.01.12
Shai Wosner
Gramophone

By Bryce Morrison

With this recital Shai Wosner declares himself a Schubertian of unfaltering authority and character. Entirely modern in style (tonally lean and sharply focused, never given to easy or sentimental options), he relishes every twist and turn in the so-called Reliquie Sonata, with its quasi-orchestral, defiantly unpianistic first movement and its quasi-orchestral, defiantly unpianistic first movement and its astonishing second movement modulations (Alkan himself never wrote anything more boldly experimental). Unlike Richter in his monolithic recording, Wosner opts for two completed movements rather than allowing the music to evaporate into thin air, displaying throughout a finely concentrated sense of music that achieves its vision and depth through extreme austerity.

And again in the towering D major Sonata, even with so many high-flyers in the catalogue (Curzon, Gilels, Brendel, Kempff etc) Wosner voices his own formidably assured and trenchant voice. Whether fiercely energized in the first movement’s propulsion, keeping everything smartly on the move in the second-movement con moto (no romantic lingering in the manner of Gilels’ magnificent but arguably all-Russian reading) or locating every subtlety beneath the finale’s outwardly innocent sing-a-song-of-sixpence surface, Wosner rivets your attention at every point. He also shows a high degree of charm and affection in the German Dances and the Hungarian Melody, and he is hardly less acute in his accompanying notes, where he writes of the ‘almost Brucknerian peaks and valleys’ in the C major Sonata. Onyx’s sound is exemplary, matching the performances in clarity and warmth.