Yuja Wang

The Berlin Recital

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The Chinese pianist Yuja Wang has gone beyond dazzling technique and wardrobe controversies to a point where she can issue an album with a grand title like The Berlin Recital and back it up with entirely compelling playing. Compared with other top pianists, Wang's repertory is rather circumscribed: she keeps returning to the same composers from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, and, save Liszt, most of them are represented here. But within this field, which does not lack for recorded versions, Wang manages to seriously excel. She devotes the first third of the program to Rachmaninov, whose fusion of extreme virtuosity and subtle detail suits her magnificently: one can imagine that the composer himself, whose teaching and presence extended into the memory of today's older pianists, would indeed have loved her. Sample one of the Etudes-Tableaux, where there is just not a detail where Wang is not in complete control. But she is also in control of the long line, both in the difficult unchanging rhythm of the finale of Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84, and in the layout of the whole program, which proceeds from the Romantic world of Rachmaninov into Scriabin and Ligeti, psychological and abstract respectively, and onward to Prokofiev, entirely a product of the modern world. With excellent sound from Deutsche Grammophon that gives a sense of Wang's towering presence, this is indeed a rare and lasting pleasure.

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