As pianist Shai Wosner’s fingers began to dance across the keys, a palpable feeling of tranquility and awe fell upon the audience gathered in Chapin Hall. For two hours last Friday night, Wosner performed a sensational program, transporting listeners into a beautiful and complex world of flowing notes and harmonies.
Praised by critics for his creative and imaginative interpretations, Wosner, an Israeli-American pianist, has performed alongside a number of renowned orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant awarded by the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts and of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. In addition to an incredible list of accolades, perhaps what makes Wosner most unique as a musician is his admiration for and mastery of the compositions of Austrian composer Franz Schubert.
After welcoming his audience with a slight wave and bow, Wosner dove enthusiastically into his first piece, Schubert’s Impromptu No. 1 in F Minor, D. 935. Impromptus are freely written compositions accompanied by a touch of whimsy, and Wosner masterfully filled the spaciousness of Chapin with the impromptu’s flowing melody. With a brief few seconds of pause in between pieces, Wosner then began Chopin’s Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major, op. 29. The piece begins in A-flat major but shifts to F minor. Wosner’s fingers, which danced across the keys with swiftness and energy at the beginning of the piece, gradually slowed as the piece developed a more serious nature before returning to its happy melody.
Wosner captivated the audience with four more impromptus by Schubert and Chopin throughout the first half of the program, concluding with Schubert’s Impromptu No. 4 in F Minor, D. 935. His fingers bounced and leapt off the keys during this performance, and he looked at the keyboard with conviction each time he completed a powerful chord. The impromptu concludes with a series of ascending and descending notes, becoming louder and louder until a final descent, and Wosner capped off an amazing first half with a dramatic, fortissimo finish.
As Wosner returned to the College’s Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano after a brief intermission, the audience quickly settled into their seats, eager for more of Wosner’s music. Commanding the brightly lit stage with an unspoken grace, Wosner commenced the second half of his program with Haydn’s Fantasia in C Major and Ligeti’s Capriccio No. 1, two energetic pieces that continued to showcase the power and nuance of Wosner’s technique.
Transitioning into Haydn’s slower and more celebratory Capriccio in G Major, Wosner made meaningful use of pauses throughout the music, arcing his hands off the keys before beginning anew. Wosner’s next piece, Ligeti’s Capriccio No. 2, featured a series of dissonant tones and sinister notes, giving the feeling of tiptoeing in the night. Wosner’s fingers gave meaning to entropy, controlling the complexity and intricacies of Ligeti’s Capriccio.
After leaving the stage momentarily before beginning his final piece, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major, op. 2, No. 3, Wosner returned to ardent applause, as the audience wondered in what style Wosner would choose to conclude his concert. Throughout Chapin Hall, many listeners chose to close their eyes to better enjoy the nuances of Wosner’s style, with some members of the audience even playing along in the air as Wosner’s fingers galloped from one key to another. In 25 minutes, Wosner led the audience through the four movements of the sonata: Allegro con brio, Adagio, Scherzo: Allegro and Allegro assai. Wosner ended with his two strongest chords of the night, as the audience erupted in applause and stood to give him a standing ovation.
Wosner’s appearance, sponsored by the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment, not only delighted the audience last Friday night but also shared with the audience a deeper, more innovative vision of music. As the audience descended the steps of Chapin admiring all that they had just heard, hands were still leaping in the air to illustrious melodies.