Act of Discovery in the Piano Keys
By Suzi Brozman / [email protected]
I love a piano, and so will you if you’re lucky enough to attend the March 8 concert by Israeli-born pianist Shai Wosner at Spivey Hall.Pianist Shai Wosner
The venue is one of America’s treasure-box miracles — just the right size with superb acoustics and management with the sense to book only the best talent.
I had a chance to catch up with Wosner by phone while he was in Manhattan.
He said he had a piano in his family’s home while growing up just north of Tel Aviv. “I picked out tunes from the radio. I didn’t think I needed anything else until my parents talked me into taking lessons at age 6 or 7. They had to persuade me.”
He was more attracted to music that wasn’t for the piano, such as opera and orchestral music, but piano was the convenient medium. “That’s one of the beautiful things about it. It’s the gateway to any kind of music. That was satisfying.”
He grew in his appreciation for the piano.
Wosner said that in the past 100 to 150 years, classical music has stopped being as accessible as it used to be. It wasn’t always so formal, as popular movies about composers such as Schubert and Chopin have illustrated. The music often was played for small groups in the intimate setting of a salon. It was a way of communicating.
That’s what Wosner tries to convey to his audiences. He balances familiar and unusual music, giving listeners the opportunity to notice things in the music that they might not have seen or heard before. In his mind, music creates a continuum, not a separation between the famous and rare. “Think about it. In a rock concert, what if a popular band played only their biggest hits? Wouldn’t it get boring?”
He’s aware that unusual music can be intimidating, but he said a charismatic performer can help people avoid frustration and come to see greatness in even unfamiliar compositions. That used to be the case, he said, even with Mozart: You had to hear his music repeatedly to get it. Some of his pieces lay unperformed for decades.
How does Wosner keep his repertoire fresh? “I always try to take the score as a point of departure, to get into the mind of a composer, to see why they did what they did.”
He studied composition and interpretation and uses that knowledge to create excitement on the spot for listeners. He wants to understand why a composer decided to do one thing instead of another, to scout out what makes a piece of music great.
But it’s important, he said, to draw his interpretation from what the composer was after, not to impose his own vision.
When I asked about politics, Wosner gave the best answer: “Israelis don’t have to talk about politics all the time. I just became an American citizen. Of course I have opinions, but I keep them to myself.”
Fortunately, Wosner doesn’t keep his music to himself.
Who: Pianist Shai Wosner
What: A program of Schubert, Chopin, Haydn, Ligeti and Beethoven
Where: Spivey Hall, Clayton State University, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., Morrow
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, March 8
Tickets: $46; www.spiveyhall.org