Israeli born piano virtuoso Shai Wosner is one of the rising young performers on the Classical musical horizon. He was a resident as one of the BBC's New Generation Artists. His biography page lists appearances with major orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductors like James Conlon, Daniel Barenboim, and Zubin Mehta. Musicians he has worked with include Pinchas Zukerman, Lynn Harrell, and Jamie Laredo. He is clearly a performer to be reckoned with, so it is with some anticipation that we look to his recently released readings of Brahms and Schonberg on the Onyx label.
In a sense the CD is something of a concept album in part intended to show the similarities between two seemingly very different composers, the Romantic and the Modernist. Wosner says in the album notes: "Although they seem to belong to opposite ends of the musical pantheon, closer examination of their work reveals profound connections in their musical thinking and perception." Both see themselves as building on the work of those who have gone before them; they, and Wosner along with them, see their work as evolutionary.
The arrangement of the work on the album in reverse chronological order beginning with the Schonberg Suite for Piano, op. 25 (1921-23) and ending with the Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, op. 24 (1861), with Brahms' 7 Fantasies, op. 116 (1892) interspersed with Schonberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19 (1911) between the two is perhaps odd at first glance. If one wants to illustrate an evolutionary progression, it would seem to make sense to start at the beginning and work forward. On the other hand, it would make just as much sense to take a look at the final product first, so that influences and building blocks from earlier work might be made evident. Perhaps it is merely six of one, half dozen of the other. It is, at any rate, quite an interesting approach to the music.