Norman Lebrecht Album of the Week

Shai Wosner
Sinfini Music

By Norman Lebrecht 
Touch is everything in Schubert. All it takes is the opening phrase of the slightest of his piano pieces to separate the general run of pianists from the truly outstanding. This release from Shai Wosner places the New York-based Israeli pianist indisputably in the second category.
There is no easy way of conveying what is meant by Schubert touch, so let me try a sporting analogy. Most footballers kick the ball. Ronaldo, Messi, Pele and a few others stroke it, charm it, convert it into an extension of their physical being. With that thought in mind, listen to Wosner in the second Moment at 1:25 and you will hear something like Ronaldo at the piano. Hard to remember when a pianist on record last gave Schubert such personal expression.
In the great A-major sonata, D959, Schubert taps into existential loneliness with an aching Andantino melody that explodes without warning into uncontained fury before reverting to artificial calm. Is the composer raging against the dying of the light in his penultimate work? Wosner makes it sound like that.
Between the two Schubert sets, he interposes a contemporary meditation by an American composer, Missy Mazzoli, a dreamy piece made out of fragments of the Schubert sonata. Unusually for such ‘inspirations’, it works as an interpretative addendum. The recording, produced this summer at Potton Hall, Suffolk, by EMI veteran John Fraser, is flawless.