Friday , July 19 2024
Pianist Yuja Wang

Music Review: Yuja Wang – ‘The Vienna Recital’

Stellar technique and vast interpretive creativity make this wide-ranging release from pianist Yuja Wang stand out among this year’s many fine piano releases. The 2022 performances captured on The Vienna Recital displays Wang’s full mastery of repertoire from Beethoven and Brahms to Ligeti, Scriabin and Glass and beyond.

The album benefits from thoughtful sequencing as well as the individual performances. Elements or concepts from one piece appear reflected in the next, as when the devilish fury of Ligeti’s Étude No. 13, the aptly titled “L’Escalier du Diable,” flows niftily into the perpetual motion of Philip Glass’ Étude No. 6.

A lithe reading of Albéniz’s “Malaga” mingles archness and romance to open the set. A Beethoven Sonata and Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 are the heaviest hitters. Wang’s Scriabin is thoroughly conceived and brilliantly executed, from the introspective first movement and the prickly jesting of the second to the gossamer third and the seething, questioning finale.

Wang lightens things with two of Nikolai Kapustin’s arch Jazz Preludes and a good piano transcription of the “Danzón No. 2” by Arturo Márquez. A second Albéniz piece sets up Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 18.

Wang conveys the Beethoven with flowing intensity and exquisite dynamics. The hymn-like third movement sounds positively soulful, the finale forceful and triumphant. Throughout the Sonata, her approach is distinctively artful even as it remains intimately engaged with the notes on the page. Indeed it works as a kind of reverse continuance of the Scriabin, looking ahead to romanticism while the Scriabin bursts with a flourish from there into modernism.

I’m entranced too by her smoky, supremely tender performance of Brahms’ harmonically adventurous Intermezzo in C Sharp Minor, Op. 117 No. 3, and by the heartbreaking arrangement of the “Mélodie” from Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice that closes the album.

The Vienna Recital from Yuja Wang presents one of the top pianists of her generation at the top of her game. It’s available now on Deutsche Grammophon on CD, two LPs, digital, and streaming services.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to our Music section, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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