Schubert: Piano Sonatas D845, D894, D958 & D960

Shai Wosner

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Schubert: Piano Sonatas D845, D894, D958 & D960 Review

by James Manheim

Pianist Shai Wosner has built a reputation as a Schubertian. He groups the last six piano sonatas as late sonatas, and he backs this unusual concept up with detailed readings of the first three; the Piano Sonata No. 16, D. 845, and Piano Sonata No. 18, D. 894, come out here as smaller in scope but no less impressive in workmanship. Wosner has played these four sonatas in concert a good deal, and he has a kind of flexibility in them that makes his readings feel slightly improvisatory; he can pursue a point of interest at the local level and work his diversion back into the larger structure. The most distinctive feature of his readings overall is their quietness, their spirituality. Wosner calls the sonatas symphonies for the piano, and his readings have a temporal scope consistent with that idea, but he keeps the dynamic levels low. His Schubert piano sonatas are works written not for the concert hall, but instead for the composer's circle of friends and cognoscenti. He applies power mostly to bring out local details, even in the Piano Sonata No. 19, D. 958, the most Beethovenian work in the cycle. The "heavenly length" of the Piano Sonata No. 21, D. 960, is variegated enough throughout to live up to Wosner's assertion that Schubert cannot possibly be too long. This is wonderful, subtle Schubert, recorded by Onyx at the superbly appropriate American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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