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Schubert: Piano Sonatas Nos 16, 18, 19 & 21

Shai Wosner (piano) (Onyx)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Piano Sonatas Nos 16, 18, 19 & 21
Shai Wosner (piano)
Onyx ONYX 4217   148.04 mins (2 discs)


Shai Wosner offers two pairs of Schubert sonatas, contrasting those of almost unremitting darkness with two that, while not exactly a walk in the park, are blessed with a visionary inner luminosity. The challenges of each are unique: for instance, the uncompromising nature of the A minor D845 raises many questions of pacing and tone colour, while the G major D894 needs an exceptionally rapt, otherworldly atmosphere.

Shai Wosner rises to some of this extremely well, notably in the great B flat Sonata D960, Schubert’s swansong in the form, where the slow movement is given exactly the inner stillness it needs. The A minor Sonata’s scherzo is another highlight, its quirky twists, turns and flights of fancy bouncing into vivid life. Nevertheless he is occasionally let down by a tendency to a dry and pokey sound in louder passages that can emerge as slightly mannered. This becomes somewhat intrusive in the first movement of the A minor, where the pacing does not feel natural enough; it affects, too, the C minor Sonata’s obsessive rhythms, plus the B flat’s single loud trill heralding the first movement repeat, which unfortunately induced a wince. A greater variety of approach to match the differences in character between the works, too, might have been welcome. Jessica Duchen