Shoshana Telner: In Recital at Sarnia's Imperial Theatre November 4, 2009
by Brian Hay
Sometimes it's a good idea to listen to one's intuition. That was the case with pianist Shoshana Telner's performance at The Imperial Theatre in Sarnia last night. I saw the ad when it was posted on line and had a feeling she would be good. She was.
There wasn't a weak point in the evening. Her choice of selections was diverse. Her introductions to the pieces were informative, but brief and to the point. Her playing was a thing of beauty. She began with the B Minor Sonata (Hob. XVI: 32) by Joseph Haydn. It obvious then that the show would be something special. Her touch was very sure handed and her playing exuded a strong sense of purpose. The next piece on the program was a contemporary work by Carl Vine. I've never heard of him (and it's possible nobody else there had either) but his piece was a tour de force for the instrument and the player. It's impossible to describe the gamut of emotions in the work. At times it was transporting. At other times it was startling and thunderous.
She closed the first half with a pair of works by Frederic Chopin. The first was a beautifully played rendition of the Opus 27 Nocturne Nr. 2. Her playing was lyrical and often haunting. The second was the Opus 31 Scherzo Nr. 2. Part of way through that piece that it struck me that her approach to this and the other works seemed similar to what Franz Liszt might have done. She plays with great respect for the works but makes them her own, something Liszt was known for. This isn't such a stretch. Chopin himself regarded Liszt as the best interpreter of his works. As well, Shoshana is on the faculty of McMaster University where Alan Walker is Professor Emeritus. Walker is one of the leading authorities on Liszt. His three-volume biography of the man has been called a landmark. And it is. Walker himself is very approachable and always willing to share knowledge. It's easy to imagine there may be some influence from him.
The second half began with Bela Bartok's Russian Folk Dances. Shoshana gave this a warm reading which suited the folk melodies Bartok used in the piece wonderfully. She followed it with excepts from the Opus 63 "Esquisses" by Charles Alkan, another composer that was pretty well unknown here before this performance. The piece was lyrical, warm, and at times, very dramatic. Shoshana probably sparked a lot of curiosity about Alkan's work with her rendition of it. She closed the set with Franz Liszt's "Venezia e Napoli" from the second set of "Années de Pèlerinage". Again, it seemed that her overview is similar to what Liszt's would have been. Her rendition was very very poetic. It was also dramatic and sharp. At times it boomed like thunder. It was like being carried on a wave, called to attention, and carried off again. It was great. She gave a short encore with a piece by Claude Debussy. I don't recall the name of it but, like the rest of the program, it was a gem.
The only question left unanswered by this performance was how to get her to come back here. This was a great performance.
Shoshana Telner played at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia on Wednesday November 4, 2009.
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Pianist Shoshana Telner
Photo from Her Official Site