Review: Yuja Wang puts on a masterful show at Massry Center

It's easy to see why pianist Yuja Wang keeps getting standing ovations, rave reviews and internation

It’s easy to see why pianist Yuja Wang keeps getting standing ovations, rave reviews and international stardom.

On Saturday at the Massry Center for the Arts’ Picotte Recital Hall, a large crowd heard Wang’s artistry, which was nothing less than exemplary. Her program was also an interesting one that allowed her to present the type of things she loves to do: pieces with huge contrasts, big sounds, crashing chords and lots of heart-on-the-sleeve melodies. All of it was extremely difficult.

She began with five of Alexander Scriabin’s short pieces. Prelude in B Major, Op. 11, #11 was lush, romantic and flowing. Prelude in B minor, Op. 13, #6 contrasted with a big tone and Wang’s easy technique. She gave a wonderful singing tone to the Prelude in G-sharp minor, Op. 11, #1. Etude in G-sharp minor, Op. 8, #9 had big, dry octave runs, and a huge dynamic range that Wang varied from delicate to thundering, stretching her phrases well. In Poeme in F-sharp Major, Op. 32, #1 she took her time with some magical pacing.

Her palette of colors was impressive for all the pieces.

Wang cut a still figure at the keyboard. She sat with her back very straight and displayed a natural kind of ease. This poise got a bit tossed aside for Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 6 in A Major.

Massively difficult, it uses the entire keyboard and demands as much from the pianist as it does from the piano. The four movements range from big, bold, brash and unapologetic to a sparkling fleetness.

The first movement was dark and percussive, with a heavy, rugged landscape. Wang laid down a heavy touch for the ponderous chords. The second movement was drier, with a poetic singing. The third was quick and fleet and the finale tight, hard-edged and very fast, like gnomes playing. This evolved into an expansive cathedral of sound.

Wang was fabulous. She brought some surprised oohs, however, when she appeared for the second half. She’d changed her sheath. For the first half, it was a black, one-shouldered affair. For the second, she was all in red.

The color suited her final work: Liszt’s Sonata in B minor. Wang plumbed the depths of possibilities. It was marvelous playing.

After the mysterious opening, Wang’s playing was one of urgency as she built the various climaxes. Octave studies were exact, her tone sang. Contrasts were immediate. One moment it was a love song, the next waterfalls of rushing torrents to light sprays of sound.

Her depth of passion and involvement were on a grand scale. That she has the technique to support this emotional ride made it all the more amazing. Midway through, she seemed to move into another level of touch and feel, which created even more magical moments.

Wang had enough left to provide two encores to the standing ovations: Prokofiev’s fiery, finger-twisting Toccata and a Liszt transcription of Schubert’s “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel.”

Fans rushed to buy her CDs, which she signed after the concert.

Categories: Entertainment

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