Review of Shai Wosner's February 23, 2020 Concert
By Lana Robotewskyj
The idea for "Nano Sonatas" was conceived by American-born composer, Frederic Rzewski, after receiving credit on an article written by his friend, Hideyuki Arata, a scientist born in Okinawa who devoted his life to the studies of nanotechnology and biophysics. The scientist, a piano hobbyist on the side, gave credit to Frederic for "valuable discussions on nanomolecular motors". In response, Frederic dedicated his first Nano Sonata to Hideyuki. What followed were 55 more Nano Sonatas, dedicated mostly to family and friends.
On February 23, 2020, Israeli born pianist, Shai Wosner performed three of the Nano Sonatas, numbers 36, 38, and 12 and sandwiched these between Scarlatti's Sonatas, K141, K9, and K230, at the Farley's House of Piano Salon Piano Series. Only an artist can curate such a program of events and demonstrate that old and new, past and present, baroque and modern, can work together in tonal harmony, on the same instrument. Although the pieces have hundreds of years difference in birth, they all are single movement, small works of art demonstrating the brilliance for repeated note passages, large use of highly contrasting subito dynamics, and the stamina for technical speed while maintaining the prowess for articulate ornamentation, and sound. Nano #36 included some tapping under the keyboard while #12 put the sostenuto pedal to use. All three Nano Sonatas had time signature changes throughout and #12 specifically resembled folk dances of the Balkans. The length of each of the six Sonatas was of similar timing, and the weaving of Scarlatti and Rzewski created a perfect juxtaposition of this musical symbiotic relationship.
Beethoven's "Pastoral" Sonata, Opus 28 in D Major was written at a time when Beethoven's hearing was deteriorating. Ironically, the piece itself sounds at peace and depicts a relaxed state of mind and mood. As expected, scaler passages glistened, melodies sang, dynamic nuances were discerned, and the timing of the rests was exquisite. Shai's beautiful tone at the piano kept the unwavering attention of the audience throughout the four movement work.
The second half of the program was Schubert's Sonata in B Flat Major, D960. Written two months before his death, there is much speculation that this sonata is a foreshadowing of Schubert's demise, as the infamous low left hand trill sets the mood for questions of the afterlife. It's a juxtaposition of diabolical and heavenly, and heavenly it was. The opening of the first movement captured everyone's attention and so much so, that even the quietest of breathers, was heard. Meaning, you could hear a pin drop. The Sonata was emotional, spiritual, stirring, moving. Sometimes it's hard to discern if it's the beauty of the piece that grabs your heart, or if it's the player...I believe it's a combination of both with Schubert's Sonata. The complexity of layering of sounds is something that only the highest of refined players are capable of, and clearly Shai approaches this technique with effortless elegance and grace. The journey throughout the piece was passionate and intense. At times, I had to change my focus so as not to embarrass myself with tears. Strange that I sometimes have this reaction.
The concert tonight demonstrated playing of the highest caliber with complete control of tone and nuances of the particular instrument. Shai's approach to the piano provided for a delightful evening of music.
The wonderful reception that followed included red and white wines, marzipan- and chocolate-filled bon bons, a hummus and vegetable platter, a charcuterie platter with different home baked breads, various cookies, cheese cake, and fruit. As with all of the performers of the Salon Piano Series, Shai enjoyed conversing with the listeners, and signed cds; just an excellent evening!
Thank you so much to Tim and Renee Farley for providing Madison with these experiences. They really do fulfill my heart.
Lana Robotewskyj Melodiya Piano Academy, LLC