Shai Wosner performs piano concertos by Haydn and Ligeti

05.15.17
Shai Wosner
Classical-Music.com

Haydn and Ligeti? The mix isn’t as startling as you might think. The imagination, humour and whimsy of both composers make them happy companions in the sparkling musicianship of Shai Wosner and Nicholas Collon. Two Haydn piano concertos enjoy a welcome airing – too often Haydn is overshadowed in programming choice elsewhere by his friend Mozart – and Ligeti’s concerto should unquestionably be a staple part of the repertoire, were it not such a challenge to put it together. Ligeti’s magical textures and fantastical orchestration occasionally feel like a melting pot of Adams-like propulsion and glitter mixed with Bartókian strange sounds of the night in the slow movement, spinning exultantly in space without tonal gravity. And Haydn’s verve-filled Hungarian-style finales meet the 20th-century master virtually on home territory. 

Wosner’s notes describe these composers’ use of humour as ‘like two distant relatives sharing an old family joke’. Wit nevertheless rubs shoulders effortlessly with intensity and even moments of terror – that Ligeti slow movement involves sounds that resemble a siren and a police whistle. It’s the intelligence, perception and dazzling energy of Wosner’s playing that makes all this possible and vivid. A Barenboim protégé, he responds to every twist and turn with a sense of great immediacy as well as an airy, high-stepping poise and unerring pointing-up of Ligeti’s deliciously unpredictable rhythms. The concertos come across as large-scale chamber music and Collon shapes the orchestral sound with exemplary transparency so that all the layered-up details shimmer, clash, compete and cooperate in fine style. 
 
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