RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 - 1943)
Étude-tableau in A minor, op. 39, no. 6 [2.31]
Étude-tableau in B minor, op. 39, no. 4 [2.31]
Élégie in E-flat minor, op. 3, no. 1 [4.44]
Étude-tableau in E-flat minor, op. 39, no. 5 [4.37]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685 - 1757) Allegro from Sonata
in E Major, K455 [1.44]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714 - 1787) arr. Giovanni SGAMBATI
Mélodie from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice [3.01]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909) Triana from Iberia,
Book II [5.25]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875), arr. Vladimir HOROWITZ (1903-1989)
Variations on a Theme from Carmen(Gypsy Song, Act II/White
House Version) [3.39]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828), arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Gretchen am Spinnrade, D 118 [3.36]
Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899), arr. György CZIFFRA
Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka, op. 214 [3.20]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849) Valse in C-sharp
minor, op. 64, no. 2 [3.49]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935), arr. Victor STAUB (1872-1953)
L’Apprenti sorcier [9.49]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Prélude in B major, op. 11, no. 11 [1.31]
Prélude in B minor, op. 13, no. 6 [1.18]
Prélude in G-sharp minor, op. 11, no. 12 [1.30]
Étude in G-sharp minor, op. 8, no. 9 [4.31]
Poème in F-sharp major, op. 32, no. 1 [3.23]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921), arr. Franz Liszt/Vladimir
Dance macabre [7.52]
Yuja Wang (piano)
rec. December 2011, Teldex Studio, Berlin. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 0052 [68.56]
I have not heard Ms. Wang’s playing before this CD. I have, in part,
been skeptical about the new influx of younger players, each of them being
promoted by their major record labels in superlative prose that I cannot imagine
anyone could live up to. However, after listening to this recital I would
wholeheartedly endorse most of what I have read about Ms. Wang: here is a
fully-fledged artist, with technique to burn and a maturity well beyond her
The recital is a collection of shorter works that Ms. Wang often plays as
encores in concert. It begins with four works by Rachmaninov. The first, Étude-tableau
in A minor, is characterized by quick-silver mood changes and syncopated,
sudden sforzandos, all beautifully realized in this performance. In this,
and the following Étude, Wang’s rapid passage work is unfailingly
even and crystal-clear, and there is admirable attention to inner voices within
the overall texture. The third work, Élégy in E-flat minor,
is Rachmaninov in his most melancholic mood, played here with an almost unbearable
sadness. I daresay that if heard as an encore, this performance would hold
the room utterly spellbound.
Wang’s Scarlatti is just right, a proper Allegro which avoids the temptation
- to which I often expect younger players to succumb - to play it so fast
it becomes a hectic virtuoso showpiece. Instead, Wang captures all of the
music’s lighthearted wit and playfulness. The performance of Albeniz’s
Triana is lush and seductive, the stylish rubato wholly evocative of
Albeniz’s beloved Spain. A complete recording of Iberia by Wang
is a tempting prospect!
The beginning of the Variations on a Theme from Carmen brought a moment
of disappointment. This is arguably Horowitz’s best known transcription,
and his performances immediately grab the listener by the scruff of the neck,
only letting go after the final fistful of notes. Wang is far more understated
at the beginning, which at first listening I took as a lack of intensity.
Yet as the music progresses, Wang generates ever-increasing tension, and the
final moments are as intense and powerful as I have ever heard.
I was again impressed by Wang’s ability naturally to convey the Viennese
lilt and rubato of the Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka in Cziffra’s note-filled
transcription. After that, Chopin’s Valse in C-sharp minor featured
beguiling sotto voce playing that was supremely touching.
Each of the five short works by Scriabin offer different technical challenges,
which Wang has fully mastered: she makes these difficult pieces sound effortless!
Moreover, each conveys a completely different mood and atmosphere, here most
tellingly conveyed. I sometimes find Scriabin’s music off-putting, but
Wang’s performances fully drew me into Scriabin’s complicated,
and sometimes convoluted, spirit.
Wang’s performances of the two largest transcriptions, L’Apprenti
sorcier and Danse macabre, left me grinning from ear to ear! Her
technique is awesome, yet never displayed for its own sake, but rather in
the service of the music. Not once did I miss the orchestral versions of these
works, such is Ms. Wang’s ability to create different colors and textures.
As you can surely tell, I was very much taken by Ms. Wang’s playing.
I gladly endorse everything I have read and heard about this artist. She is
an extremely accomplished artist, and I look forward to hearing her work for
many years to come.
David A. McConnell
An extremely accomplished artist.