Piano duo defy gravity in soaring concert at Norton Museum

| February 25, 2019 | Parties

The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach presented its first concert at the renovated Norton Museum on Thursday with the piano duo of Shai Wosner and Orion Weiss.
Playing to a packed house, the duo offered a serious program, making no concessions to facile effects or crowd-pleasing selections. The pianists’ program reflected a seriousness and musical intelligence almost old-fashioned and the result was satisfying to listeners with the most discriminating tastes.
Take for instance, their opening number, David Lang’s “Gravity.” Written in 2005, this is a post-minimalism work that functions almost an inverted passacaglia (with the repeated line on top, instead of the bass). It was performed with the utmost attention to detail and connected seamlessly with the next work on the program, Franz Schubert’s “Grand Duo in C Major,” Op. 140, D. 812.
Published posthumously in 1837, the work is the Everest of piano duets, mainly because of its 45 minutes in length. Wosner and Weiss tackled the “veiled symphony” in a straightforward manner, taking all the repeats and achieving remarkable balance despite the Norton’s somewhat dry acoustic environment. Their reading of the scherzo was particularly noteworthy, full of energy and a lightness of touch that almost defied gravity.
That lightness was displayed in a second selection by David Lang, “After Gravity” of 2007. Here, the melodic lines were kept in a continuous flow that highlighted not only the pianists’ elegant playing, but also Lang’s gift as a composer for the medium.
The duo closed the program with selections from Johannes Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances.” As if to stress their musical higher ground, Wosner and Weiss chose the ones from Book 3 (1880), which are less popular than the ones published in 1869. Once more, the piano duo tackled the miniatures with the same attention to detail and musical integrity they did in the lengthier Schubert.
As a break to the audience’s endurance in this veritable intellectual and musical tour de force, they obliged with the ever-popular “Hungarian Dance” No. 5 by Brahms, their only concession in a remarkable program.


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