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Shai Wosner

Review: Substitute soloist brings finesse to SLSO concert

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

By Fred Blumenthal

Maestro Stéphane Denève is in the habit of beginning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concerts with charming, cordial introductions to the audience.

On Friday, he began by remarking that Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 op. 68 is in C minor, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is in C major and Detlev Glanert’s “Brahms-Fantasie,” the contemporary piece on the program, featured the note C in important ways in its opening and closing moments.

He might not have made those remarks if the original program had been followed. The SLSO had planned to feature pianist Lars Vogt in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, which is in G Major. However, because of a late switch, Shai Wosner, a faculty member at Bard College Conservatory of Music, was featured in the Concerto No. 1 instead.

Wosner plays with perfection and finesse. Coming right after the modern piece, the concerto sounded surprising but beautiful. (This was the second piano concerto that Beethoven wrote but is designated as No. 1 because it was the first published.) His performance was carefully thought out, and the third movement provided opportunity to emphasize his technique at high speed, with appropriate excitement and even some humor.

The accompanying orchestra was sometimes bombastic and sometimes carefully balanced with the soloist, and the second movement featured important solos by clarinetist Scott Andrews. When the standing ovation produced an encore, “Hungarian Melody in B minor,” D 817 by Franz Schubert, Denève took a seat at the back of the violin section in a show of reverence for his soloist.

Read the full review.