Yuja Wang dazzles in London

Posted by: bennevis

Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 06:27 AM

Yuja Wang played to a capacity audience in London's Queen Elizabeth Hall last night, and delighted the crowd with a dazzling and colorful display of fireworks.

Some people here with long memories may remember that in my thread on Fauré last year, I mentioned that Yuja Wang would be playing that composer in this concert. Well, she's changed her program - it's now all-Russian except for a German interloper, Beethoven, whose Op.27/1 she played with great poise (and innigkeit in the brief slow movement). Some people in the audience might have wished for Op.27/2 (Moonlight) instead, but personally I was grateful to hear one of Beethoven's least-performed Sonatas so beautifully played.

But she opened her concert with 'a 100m sprint' as I heard one punter comment - Rachmaninoff's Etude-tableau Op.39/6. Hearing her play this piece with such gossamer lightness yet with perfect evenness in the rapid passages (not to mention exquisite timing), then a little later, pummelling the chords and torrents of notes in Op.39/5 without drowning the melody in the middle reminded me how much such musical effects rely on her truly astounding technique (which really does begin where most others' leave off), which gives full rein to her vivid imagination because she knows she can pull off anything she wants to.

The colors she brought out in Scriabin's Sonata No.5 make Hamelin, Ashkenazy and even Richter pale in comparison - the last time I heard such incandescence in a Scriabin Sonata was when Pletnev played Sonata No.4 as an encore (!) many years ago. And her final offering, Prokofiev's Sonata No.6, more than makes up in verve and imagination what it may lack in sheer brutality compared to some less subtle pianists - right up there with Pogorelich and Lugansky.

And her encore? Horowitz's Carmen Variations (based on the Gypsy Song from Act 2), which sent everyone home with a smile, shaking their heads in wonder and admiration... grin
Posted by: nocturne152

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 06:35 AM

All Russian composers? God...
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 08:53 AM

For those interested in such things, I'd add that she wore a very long (so long that I wondered how she was going to pedal...) iridescent blue gown with long side slits - but not quite as long as those on Angelina Jolie's gown that she wore for the Oscars grin.

And then (shades of Eileen Joyce?) she changed into a shocking red backless gown for the second half. Not the miniskirt of Hollywood Bowl fame, but very distinctive nevertheless. Was she reminding us that we were hearing a War Sonata? Or that Prokofiev had a hard time under Stalin's communist rule? (Note to self: must stop such irrelevant psychoanalysis....)
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 09:04 AM

Great comments, Bennevis. Thanks for reporting on the recital.
Posted by: Sir Monty Golfear

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 09:25 AM

Yes Bennevis......brilliant reveu and observations. We need pianist like her on the circuit.
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 06:52 PM

George Hall at the Guardian saw it a bit differently:


"For her appearance in the Southbank Centre's International Piano Series, the Chinese pianist Yuja Wang chose a mostly Russian programme, spanning late-Romantics Scriabin and Rachmaninov through to the Soviet-era Prokofiev, with one of Beethoven's sonatas nodding towards the Viennese classics.

Slender and elegant when seated at the keyboard, Wang scarcely moves her body while her fingers and forearms fly in all directions. Her opening Rachmaninov group emphasised her astonishing technical command. Scarcely a note escaped her in three Etudes-Tableaux and the Elégie from the early Morceaux de Fantaisie, though in complex textures she didn't always separate out what was thematically important from what was merely accompaniment. Her loud playing had a tendency towards the gruff and occasionally the brash.

But her security was never for a second in doubt. Beethoven's Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia, Op 27 No 1 – one of the pieces in which he comes closest to setting down on paper his famous improvisations – sounded easy, though this was a performance that never sought for depth beneath its pristine surface. In Scriabin's volatile Fifth Sonata, Wang's great sweeps around the keyboard were immaculately achieved; yet once again the expressive intentions behind all the idiosyncratic harmonies and strange, evanescent gestures went largely unexplored.

She changed from a dark blue dress to red for the Prokofiev in the second half. His Sixth Sonata is a monstrous musical mechanism, frequently wayward, often brutally abrasive, occasionally slyly humorous, and mostly written at the very edge of what is possible to articulate with just 10 fingers. Wang certainly had all the notes, but the work's gigantic range of character was merely sketched in. Only in her encore – Vladimir Horowitz's crazily virtuosic Carmen Variations – did her jaw-dropping dexterity combine with sufficient musicality to come fully alive
Posted by: beet31425

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 06:56 PM

There's a youtube video of Wang playing the development section of the first movement of the Prokofiev 6th. Tempo very fast. Well done-- quite brutal and effective.

-J
Posted by: asthecrowflies

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/02/12 07:14 PM

speaking of London performances... anyone else have tickets to Valentina Lisetsa at RAH? i'm not quite sure what to expect. Her technique is astounding, and she plays certain things very eloquently... but much of her virtuouso playing sounds like a ukranian robot... perhaps with a secret "kill" button like Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 11:57 AM

Originally Posted By: Andromaque
George Hall at the Guardian saw it a bit ..


Thanks for that.

I frequently disagree with the Guardian's critics over piano recitals grin. It would be interesting to see if the other broadsheets have different opinions.

But I've already added Yuja Wang to my very short list of 'pianists not to be missed at any cost' on the strength of what I saw & heard in this concert.
Posted by: Sir Monty Golfear

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 12:06 PM

Originally Posted By: asthecrowflies
speaking of London performances... anyone else have tickets to Valentina Lisetsa at RAH? i'm not quite sure what to expect. Her technique is astounding, and she plays certain things very eloquently... but much of her virtuouso playing sounds like a ukranian robot... perhaps with a secret "kill" button like Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse.


I hope she doesn't play that Rachmaninov "Piano concerto no.5 for solo piano " Trash !!!
Posted by: AldenH

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 12:11 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

But I've already added Yuja Wang to my very short list of 'pianists not to be missed at any cost' on the strength of what I saw & heard in this concert.


I'm still kicking myself for missing a recital she gave near me last year... I don't recall the whole program, but it included Prokofiev 6 and a Scriabin sonata (either 5 or 9). She is a phenomenal artist.
Posted by: PianogrlNW

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 12:22 PM

Here is one of my favorite YT videos, Yuja Wang at age 10 playing The Cowherd's Flute, composed by He Luting.
Posted by: nocturne152

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 12:48 PM

I don't care for Wuja Yang.
Posted by: Orange Soda King

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 01:31 PM

Originally Posted By: lostaccato
I don't care for Wuja Yang.


I think I know where you're coming from. I was listening to her Petrushka, and it has great fire and flair and yes, she has a good tone palette, but that's all I heard. Weissenberg and Gilels for me, please!

Are there any performances of her playing Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven (and not when she was really young, but recently??) I can't find any on YouTube, and I wonder if that's telling...
Posted by: PianogrlNW

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 01:40 PM

Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King
Are there any performances of her playing Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven (and not when she was really young, but recently??) I can't find any on YouTube, and I wonder if that's telling...


You may have a point. I found this very un-Mozartian Mozart (Volodos' arrangement of the Turkish March). There's much key banging going on. And, the videographer was either drunk or couldn't see over the person in front.
Posted by: nocturne152

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 02:08 PM

she seems to LOVE the russian composers. sorry, but besides tchaikovsky the russian composers are BLECHHH. thats just me, im sure im gonna offend some rach worshipers... but anyway - yes she seems to love the russians and i hardly see her play european composers. shes robotic to me too. at least lang lang isnt robotic. but hey - what to i know eh? now im rambling laugh
Posted by: asthecrowflies

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 02:24 PM

Originally Posted By: lostaccato
sorry, but besides tchaikovsky the russian composers are BLECHHH.


what specifically about the Russians do you dislike?
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 02:51 PM

Originally Posted By: lostaccato
she seems to LOVE the russian composers. sorry, but besides tchaikovsky the russian composers are BLECHHH. thats just me, im sure im gonna offend some rach worshipers... but anyway - yes she seems to love the russians and i hardly see her play european composers. shes robotic to me too. at least lang lang isnt robotic. but hey - what to i know eh? now im rambling laugh


"... the Russian composers..." covers a lot of varying territory, don't you think?
Posted by: nocturne152

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 03:03 PM

i've never been able to get into them. ive always been pulled in to other composers like chopin, debussy, mozart, liszt.. all uncontrolabley pulled in. ive TRIED to listen to russian composers and they just dont do it for me besides pytor T.
Posted by: Sir Monty Golfear

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 04:06 PM

Originally Posted By: PianogrlNW
Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King
Are there any performances of her playing Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven (and not when she was really young, but recently??) I can't find any on YouTube, and I wonder if that's telling...


You may have a point. I found this very un-Mozartian Mozart (Volodos' arrangement of the Turkish March). There's much key banging going on. And, the videographer was either drunk or couldn't see over the person in front.


I agree, too much of everything, except class, and musicality .
Posted by: Sir Monty Golfear

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 04:09 PM

Originally Posted By: lostaccato
she seems to LOVE the russian composers. sorry, but besides tchaikovsky the russian composers are BLECHHH. thats just me, im sure im gonna offend some rach worshipers... but anyway - yes she seems to love the russians and i hardly see her play european composers. shes robotic to me too. at least lang lang isnt robotic. but hey - what to i know eh? now im rambling laugh



I'm a Rach worshipper !......Lang Lang aint for me either !...
Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 04:56 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
I frequently disagree with the Guardian's critics over piano recitals grin. It would be interesting to see if the other broadsheets have different opinions.


I just cited the Guardian for interest. There were a couple of other reviews that had remarkably similar comments. Of course you are entitled to your opinion. So I am not trying to compare your take to the others. I have seen Ms Wang in recital and was impressed with the fireworks but not the music, but she has been catapulted to the stars very quickly. So I have been curious whether I mis-judged her playing and she has been on my radar since.


Here is Ivan Hewett at The Telegraph: "We were astonished by a phenomenon, rather than wrapped in a musical experience.

In all it was a perplexing evening, which left me cold. Which was a shame, as it contained some wonderful things. Wang’s uncanny intensity and her sheer ferocity were exactly right for the febrile heat of Scriabin’s 5th Sonata. And there were some lovely liquid moments in the slow movement of Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata, and a keen sense of its contrapuntal layers. For a moment, one felt real warmth in the air."
Posted by: slava_richter

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 05:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King
Originally Posted By: lostaccato
I don't care for Wuja Yang.


I think I know where you're coming from. I was listening to her Petrushka, and it has great fire and flair and yes, she has a good tone palette, but that's all I heard. Weissenberg and Gilels for me, please!

Are there any performances of her playing Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven (and not when she was really young, but recently??) I can't find any on YouTube, and I wonder if that's telling...


Oh god, that Gilels recording of Petrushka is out of this world!

I agree, it's telling when a pianist only plays pieces that can show of their technique. I suspect that's why she doesn't play them, there's no chance to wow an audience with the speed of your octaves in - for example - a Bach fugue.
Posted by: Damon

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 05:43 PM

Originally Posted By: PianogrlNW

You may have a point. I found this very un-Mozartian Mozart (Volodos' arrangement of the Turkish March). There's much key banging going on.
....[/video]


I thought the point of the Volodos arrangement was to be un-Mozartian since Mozart already gave us his take. Also, consumer-grade recorders often sound harsh. Also, there is a place for harsh in music. Also, this is not to read as an endorsement of Yuja Wang. Nor was the last sentence to be read conversely.
Posted by: PianogrlNW

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 05:51 PM

Originally Posted By: Damon
Originally Posted By: PianogrlNW

You may have a point. I found this very un-Mozartian Mozart (Volodos' arrangement of the Turkish March). There's much key banging going on.
....[/video]


I thought the point of the Volodos arrangement was to be un-Mozartian since Mozart already gave us his take. Also, consumer-grade recorders often sound harsh. Also, there is a place for harsh in music. Also, this is not to read as an endorsement of Yuja Wang. Nor was the last sentence to be read conversely.


On YT some commenters thought that Ms. Wang added her own 2 cents to the interpretation. I'm not familiar with this piece, so I don't know how much more key banging she added to Volodos.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 10:39 PM

I see that she is scheduled to perform the Chopin Concerto No. 1 with the National Symphony in DC in December.
Posted by: Orange Soda King

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/03/12 10:45 PM

Well, that specific piece is supposed to be a little on the bangy side. At least, it's a virtuoso show-off piece based off the Mozart piece, which is perfectly fine! Those kinds of pieces have their time and place, and they are great fun. smile Cziffra did that kind of stuff ALL the time! So I'm not going to judge her off of just that.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 05:11 AM

For anyone who thinks that Yuja Wang is one-dimensional, it's worth getting hold of her first CD ('Sonatas & Etudes'), of Chopin, Liszt, Scriabin and Ligeti (how many pianists play him?). And her second CD ('Transformation'), which contains some lovely unflashy Brahms and Scarlatti.

Her Petrushka is far more multi-faceted than Gilels's and Weissenberg's (and in many ways, even Pollini's), far less relentlessly bangy (and that's an objective observation, not subjective). There's also a DVD of her playing Mendelssohn's Septet, where, despite the piano getting all the virtuosic stuff, she is truly a collaborative chamber player. Oh, and Petrushka is also there.

I wouldn't judge a young pianist solely on their virtuosic playing, though it's understandable that if you're young and have the chops, why not, er, show off a little? grin Richter and Gilels were both highly bangy in their youth, according to Heinrich Neuhaus, their teacher. (And they continued to bang when required into their middle-age and beyond....).
Posted by: wr

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 06:07 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis

I wouldn't judge a young pianist solely on their virtuosic playing, though it's understandable that if you're young and have the chops, why not, er, show off a little? grin Richter and Gilels were both highly bangy in their youth, according to Heinrich Neuhaus, their teacher. (And they continued to bang when required into their middle-age and beyond....).


I agree. It's unfair to expect a person in their twenties to play with the maturity of someone in their fifties. I've heard Wang live and have thoroughly enjoyed it, while still realizing she was not a fully matured artist.

But, there's also this weird contemporary over-marketing of young artists who still have a ways to go musically. Oddly, DG keeps popping up as I think about this issue (as well as certain competitions). It's like the marketing people have completely eclipsed the kind of old-fashioned artistic career management that actually cared about the development of the artist.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 06:37 AM

Let's not forget that Daniel Barenboim recorded the complete Beethoven Sonatas (and Concertos) while barely out of his teens in the 1960s. And many people prefer these EMI recordings to his later, 'mature' DG cycle (Sonatas). Not to mention his later 'mature' Concerto recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker...

I don't think musical maturity is a prerogative of the old, or those of 'mature years'. For instance, I prefer Artur Rubinstein's earlier Chopin to his later RCA recordings. And ditto for Horowitz - who became more idiosyncratic (and even perverse) with age.
Posted by: wr

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 07:13 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Let's not forget that Daniel Barenboim recorded the complete Beethoven Sonatas (and Concertos) while barely out of his teens in the 1960s. And many people prefer these EMI recordings to his later, 'mature' DG cycle (Sonatas). Not to mention his later 'mature' Concerto recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker...

I don't think musical maturity is a prerogative of the old, or those of 'mature years'. For instance, I prefer Artur Rubinstein's earlier Chopin to his later RCA recordings. And ditto for Horowitz - who became more idiosyncratic (and even perverse) with age.


Did I say that all artists always get better in every possible piece they play, as they mature? I don't think so. Neither did I say that all younger artists are always totally immature in every piece. Jeez....
Posted by: Sir Monty Golfear

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 08:51 AM

Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Let's not forget that Daniel Barenboim recorded the complete Beethoven Sonatas (and Concertos) while barely out of his teens in the 1960s. And many people prefer these EMI recordings to his later, 'mature' DG cycle (Sonatas). Not to mention his later 'mature' Concerto recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker...

I don't think musical maturity is a prerogative of the old, or those of 'mature years'. For instance, I prefer Artur Rubinstein's earlier Chopin to his later RCA recordings. And ditto for Horowitz - who became more idiosyncratic (and even perverse) with age.


Steady on old bean !!

Did I say that all artists always get better in every possible piece they play, as they mature? I don't think so. Neither did I say that all younger artists are always totally immature in every piece. Jeez....

Posted by: Andromaque

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 10:34 AM

Speaking of maturity, Richard Goode is one such. Though he was never in the super bangy club, his recitals from about 10 years ago did not leave me with a too memorable mark. But I saw him last week at Carnegie Hall, in a Schumann Chopin program that was incredibly beautiful. Like good wine, his music making has aged gorgeously with a very rich mesmerizing sound.

AS for Yuja Wang, I will definitely go see her again, but not before some years have passed. I bow to her skills but bail on her musicality. She leaves me dumbfounded but not smitten. I personally feel that she is still at a stage of showing what she can do rather than what she has to say about the music. As a mere audience member, I get to decide what musical experiences I am willing to submit to.

Bennevis, you sound truly bedazzled smile , but PLEASE not even she would compare herself to Richter!!!! And leave the cached messages out!
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 10:55 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Let's not forget that Daniel Barenboim recorded the complete Beethoven Sonatas (and Concertos) while barely out of his teens in the 1960s. And many people prefer these EMI recordings to his later, 'mature' DG cycle (Sonatas). Not to mention his later 'mature' Concerto recordings with the Berliner Philharmoniker...

I don't think musical maturity is a prerogative of the old, or those of 'mature years'. For instance, I prefer Artur Rubinstein's earlier Chopin to his later RCA recordings. And ditto for Horowitz - who became more idiosyncratic (and even perverse) with age.


I haven't done an A/B comparison of the early and late Barenboim sonata cycles, but I do love the EMI set. It was originally released at about the same time as a Brendel cycle, and the critics were then more than willing to view the two as similar in overall quality, if different in style.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Yuja Wang dazzles in London - 05/04/12 11:54 AM

Originally Posted By: Andromaque


Bennevis, you sound truly bedazzled smile , but PLEASE not even she would compare herself to Richter!!!! And leave the cached messages out!


It takes a lot to bedazzle me - don't forget I'm (relatively) ancient grin.

But equally, big names are just that - big names. When I returned home, I pulled out my (live) Richter recording of Scriabin's Sonata No.5, and not only were there lots of wrong notes (understandable in this work), his range of color and articulation didn't approach hers (though he banged a lot harder). Some may prefer his playing here, but for my taste (and bearing in mind Scriabin's synesthesia), I prefer Wang's conception.

But I still yield to noone in my admiration of Richter...

P.S what cached messages?