Classical CDs Weekly: Elgar, Haydn, Ligeti, Smaro Gregoriadou

07.16.16
Shai Wosner
The Arts Desk

Haydn and Ligeti: Concertos & Capriccios Shai Wosner (piano) Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Collon (Onyx)

Pairing Haydn and Ligeti makes such good sense that one wonders why it's not been done more often. There's a good Ligeti quote in pianist Shai Wosner's sleeve note: “Humour and seriousness, for me, always go together” – Ligeti making the point that levity isn't an inferior emotion, but an ingredient which makes music infinitely more approachable and appealing. Wosner's performance of Ligeti's Piano Concerto is a wowzer. You ideally need two brains and three hands to play this piece well. Wosner makes it sound easy, the rattling cross rhythms effortless, the sheer musicality drawing you in. Ligeti's spooky second movement contains one of his blackest jokes. Which I won't spoil for those who haven't experienced it, apart from recommending that you crank the volume up and lower the lights. Nicholas Collon's Danish National Symphony Orchestra are superb accompanists, the xylophonist and principal horn deserving special mention. Wosner also includes Liget's early solo Capriccio, both drily appealing miniatures.

Two Capriccios by Haydn are also thrown in, one of which includes specific instructions for the pianist to hold a note until the sound disappears completely – the effect of which can make the player look as if they've forgotten what comes next. And there's a pair of Haydn's best-known piano concertos. The faster movements are as sly as you'd expect – the 11th concerto's “Rondo all'Ungarese” is breathtaking, but Wosner and Collon score extra points by handling the slow movements with such tender affection – no. 4's “Adagio” a case in point. A terrific disc, and superbly recorded to boot.

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