Yuja Wang, Transformation
(released on April 13, 2010)
Wang opened the recital with three of Liszt's outrageous arrangements of Schubert Lieder. The melody of each song, often marooned in the middle of increasingly complex accompanying textures, soared in a flowing legato as if sung by a voice. Pensive yet agitated arpeggiation percolated through Gretchen am Spinnrade, cascading notes murmured in Auf dem Wasser zu singen, and the menacing king's passages in Der Erlkönig had an elfin, razor-sharp grace. Far from being simple pieces for the performer to warm up on, Liszt's settings make terrifying demands, making one hand or the other cross to add brilliant flourishes or creating great sonic outbursts in roiling octaves, nowhere with more abandon than in Der Erlkönig. A Scriabin set opened the second half, ranging from a poetic B minor prelude (op. 13/6), with its lost wisps of melody, to the almost expressionistic savagery of the G# minor etude (op. 8/9). Two of the softest moments of the evening came here, in the ethereal mistiness of the G# minor prelude (op. 11/12) and the reverie of the F# minor Poème (op. 32/1), with its wisps of curling smoke forming a halo around eyes lost in thought.
Joe Banno, Breathtaking Wang delivers in DC recital (Washington Post, May 24)
Robert Battey, Yuja Wang: Transformation (Washington Post, May 24)
Lloyd Dykk, Yuja Wang triumphs with intensely difficult program in Vancouver (Straight.com, May 14)
Lawrence B. Johnson, Adventurous Yuja Wang tackles challenging, diverse recital for Chamber Music Society (Detroit News, May 13)
Peter Dobrin, An elfin Yuja Wang flexes piano brawn (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1)
A generous selection of four encores revisited all of these strengths: the soaring line of Gluck's Mélodie (Giovanni Sgambati's arrangement of a tune from Orfeo ed Euridice), the athletic vigor of a Scarlatti G major sonata (L. 209 / K. 455), the blistering virtuosity and cartoon-like looniness of Cziffra's arrangement of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka (the work is indeed associated with the cartoon Tom and Jerry), and the palate-cleansing dissonance of Danse russe (the first part of Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrouchka). The only regret at this recital was the sound of the piano, a Steinway rented for the occasion, which had a fairly good tone, a reliable una corda pedal, but something clanging and rattling in the middle to lower registers' mechanism that added disturbingly to Wang's already percussive touch.
The final WPAS concert of the season at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue will feature cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan (June 15, 8 pm).