Schubert; Mazzoli

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert; Mazzoli
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Moments musicaux, D780; Sonata No. 20, D959 • Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos
PERFORMER: Shai Wosner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4136

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What is it about Schubert and time? Shai Wosner prefaces his CD with a liner note which comes closer than anything else I have read to identifying what he calls the Schubert Effect. He sees Schubert as ‘the master of expanded time’, most evidenced in his larger works, which despite their Beethovenian echoes unfold through contemplation, rather than through the contrasts which characterise the typical argument of sonata form. The composer who in his admirer Dvoπák’s words ‘doesn’t know when to stop’ was creating an effect of timelessness; Schumann’s phrase ‘heavenly length’ is nearer the mark.

The works which Wosner presents here exemplify his thesis, as does the way he plays them. The horn-call ushering in the first of the Moments musicaux could as easily be the opening flourish of a 50-minute work as of a five-minute one: constantly shifting its focus from bold close-up to misty memory, it here emerges packed with incident and drama. Initially the emotion feels too distanced, but one soon appreciates the subtlety of the shading and the characterisation of each one, from the artless clip-clopping charm of the third to the tempestuousness of the fifth and the relaxed lyricism of the sixth; Wosner is sparing with the pedal, and his touch is wonderfully light and flexible. His account of the Sonata is magnificent: he responds intensely to the poetry and terror of this extraordinary work, which he allows to speak with all its hesitations, false steps and crazy outbursts. The short Mazzoli piece is an experimental curiosity, out of place in this context.

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Michael Church