BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts – Beethoven Piano Sonatas – 8: Shai Wosner [Opp.2/1, 10/2 & 31/3]

Piano Sonata No.1 in F minor, Op 2/1
Piano Sonata No.6 in F, Op.10/2
Piano Sonata No.18 in E flat, Op.31/3

Shai Wosner (piano)

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 27 October, 2011
Venue: Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, London

Shai Wosner. Photograph: Marco BorggreveBack for his second week in this on-going LSO St Luke’s/BBC Radio 3 survey of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, Shai Wosner offered a choice from Beethoven’s three published sets of three sonatas each. All three are buoyant works still with a thread of what Beethoven both learned from teacher Haydn and what he then went on to do with it. Silence is again important, Beethoven the past-master of incorporating it into the very fabric of his music. What also came through was the sheer work Beethoven put into making his themes and motifs so simple, just snatches and silences, out of which fully-formed movements develop.

Wosner has an appealing manner at the keyboard, revelling in Beethoven’s sudden fortes (in the first movement of the Opus 10 example, right-hand crossing left to plunge deep at the end of the exposition, and in the wonder that is the scherzo). He also has a nice line in pouncing cat-like on final cadences. He was light on his fingers in the difficulties Beethoven throws at a player, wilfully playful in the rollicking contrapuntalisms of Opus 10’s finale, with only a little rhythmic stiffness in the opening movement of the third Opus 31 sonata.

After the delicacy of the Mozartean F minor sonata (dedicated to Haydn), humour instilled these performances (miraculously, perhaps, given the year of 1802, saw Beethoven’s crisis over his encroaching deafness), at-one with Beethoven’s with and exploited brilliantly. Indeed it was this final sonata that outshone all before it, a tour de force of a performance, acutely aware both of Beethoven’s overall scheme and the inner detail, thankfully obliterating a couple of chiming digital watches announcing 2 o’clock, before a exhilaratingly thunderous finale.

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