Every season Saratoga Chamber Music Festival artistic director Chantal Juillet finds a new artist to present to audiences. On Monday night, that new artist was the 21-year-old Chinese pianist Yuja Wang.
She was a stunner. She performed Liszt’s prodigiously difficult Sonata in B minor.
It’s a very long work that goes for almost 50 minutes of constant playing. Like much of Liszt’s music, this one ebbed and flowed from great dramatic moments to quiet ephemeral sections filled with a romantically ethereal melody.
It took a page or so of music before Wang was completely involved emotionally, but once she was — wozzah.
She has technique to burn. Her octave runs at lightning speed were incredible. The volume and big sound she got out of the piano, which in the big chordal passages sounded like giant footsteps, contrasted sharply with the lacy streams of notes. Her delicate stroking of the melody was like angels singing.
Now and then, she’d lift off the piano stool in her intensity. Yet with all her passion, Wang was always in control. Her concentration was focused. She was unhesitating in pacing herself in accordance with the work’s demands. Her vision was a dramatic one. It was great stuff and the crowd loved it. Wang got a standing ovation and several curtain calls.
In Brahms’ Trio for piano, violin and French horn in E-flat Major, Wang showed she could be part of an ensemble, which included violinist David Kim, the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who was making a rare appearance on this stage, and French hornist Jennifer Montone, the principal French horn of the orchestra.
Considering that the trio had never played together before the day’s rehearsal, they showed an impressive intuitive ensemble sense.
There was excellent drama in several sections as well as haunting lyricism and always a wonderful flow to the music. Montone got a mellow tone and played with an effortless breath control. Kim played with strong phrases, rich tones and provided solid, anchored leadership. Wang was effortless in her part, too.
The evening began with Kim, cellist Efe Baltacigil of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Juillet on viola in Dohnanyi’s Serenade in C Major. Tempos were lively, Kim and Baltacigil made strong statements. Juillet had a few difficulties in the very fast technical sections, but she got a good tone and her solo in the slow second movement was expressive.
Tonight, the Russian duo of violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Lugansky will entertain.