Reviewed in the United States on April 8, 2017
It is very common now-days to give various titles to books like “100 books you should read before you die” This is very applicable to the recital Yuja Wang gave in Stockholm, last week. “One classical pianist You should watch and listen to before you die”.
This was a very mesmerizing event lasting for 21/2 hr effectively. The program was very well composed for someone of Miss Wang’s capability. I have followed her progress for the last 10 yrs. and how she has matured! Her technique is flawless to the verge of inhuman. From ff to pristine ppp she came very close to true perfection. All tones perfectly noticeable and in its right place. Perfection in key allocation. What might be difficult to Yuja Wang??
There have been and are a lot of technical virtuosos like Horowitz, Gilels, Richter, Cziffra, Ogdon, Hamlin, Kissin and Argerich just to name a few, but the question remains, Yuja Wang might stand on the very top, not forgetting that techniques is just an integer of the music conception.
The program consisted of Chopin's 24 preludes exquisitely played and for most pianists that is enough to make them stagger out for a break, but Yuja rounded off with three more tidbits viz., “Schubert/Liszt Gretchen am Spinnrade”, “Gluck/ Sgambati Mélodie from Orfeo and Euridice” and how dexterous she performed “Bizet’s Carmen Variations on a Theme by Handel/Horowitz” was just unbelievable and that was before the intermission. As far as I could notice she went out unaffected by fatigue and with a dry forehead, to return to the keys with Brahms' formidable epos “Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel”, followed by “Kapustin’s Etude in e minor "Toccatina”, Scriabin piano sonata no 4, more Chopins, g minor Ballade and Impromptu in Ab major, waltz, , Bach Aria from Goldberg Var. and then to wrap up the generous concert with one of her famous encores, “Mozart/Volodos/Fazil Rondo à la turca”. The audience was ecstatic. No wonder. She just didn't want to stop playing!
I tried to find any trace of nervousness but, no, there was none. Yuja Wang has a young spirit and I think it was noticeable with her lack of “wringing her hands”, ”time to compose herself for the task” or any ”fiddling" with the piano stool. There is nothing wrong with that said, do get me right, but reaching the grand, she just started! She looks very unpretentious and allowed her a few jokes. Relaxed with a great self-confidence!
Now, why do I write this in context with Hammerklavier? That is a very particular and demanding piece of music, which usually is performed by well reputed pianist of the old, heavy and bombastic school. She commented on that, in a recent interview and she told us, there are so many depths in this transparent sonata and she had just reached the first few “layers”. I did listen to her execution at Carnegie Hall on You Tube, but was stricken by something new, fresh, enlightening and glimmering, but all in Beethoven’s spirit. Not bad at all for such a young pianist!
This do promise a lot for the future. Yuja Wang dare and convey to her audience a new and eager, poetic tone quality and brilliance in sonority, whether we bother to enjoy or not. I do wish she will be recording Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major on CD in the future. Just think about how she will end up in another 10 yrs. to come!
I must compliment Rolando Reyes on a very useful analysis of Ms. Wang’s achievement.
I would also like to pass a comment on Ms. Wang’s attire, which always seems to make such an important issue! To divert the interest from the very music and make her appearance provocative is ludicrous. This is bad journalism and sheer conservatism and stupidity. She is young and seems comfortable, so why do people have to comment on her looks. Someone wrote “why not put the headphone on, close the eyes and listen to the music instead". Something I will always salute! That is what the music is all about!
I also get very wry, when critics come up with comments about one or two mistakes, in particular when they are dealing with and equilibrist as well as a musician of Yuja Wang’s caliber. Remarkable is her straight posture, which reminds me of Arthur Rubinstein. He of all made numerous mistakes, but who really cared. They both became "one" with the instrument and made the listener to concentrate more on the interpretations void of any mannerism. The same goes for Bill Evans and many more music masters. Nothing wrong with that. All are used to their own style of playing as long as it does not interfere with the interpretation. A matter of taste maybe.
This concert in Stockholm, which was an endurance test, and musically performed to the highest standard, both for the exited audience as well as for the pianist (but I doubt the existence of any fatigue).
I am so weary of critics’ thinking that they must produce some negative comments as well. That is of no value whatsoever not for the listener and condescending to the performer. Is that meant to be something the audience supposedly ought to be aware off? Is it to counterbalance the standing ovations given at every opportunity which seemed fit in this afternoon or is it to impress every reader? Maybe this is just sheer bad taste and conceitedness to imply “I know this piece of music tone by tone"?! I always thought it would be the "whole" of the performance which counts?!
All in all, this performance brought about standing ovations, whenever an opportunity was given and that moment was one of the rare cataclysmic musically event I ever have been privileged to listen to.
Many of these brilliant pieces of the above mentioned composers are performed on this CD as well as many of her favourite encores. I strongly recommend this record for anyone with an ear for master execution.
The highest accolades to Yuja Wang.