Xiayin Wang

Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2; Preludes

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Several Chinese pianists have begun their careers with the Hong Kong-based Naxos label and gone on to contracts with major labels in Britain, the U.S., and continental Europe. One of the best is Xiayin Wang, who is the formidable virtuoso among the group. Her earlier releases have involved such unusual composers as Earl Wild and Richard Danielpour, but now, ensconced at Chandos, she has turned to more mainstream repertoire and has done well cutting through the thickets of notes in Rachmaninov. The present release is her second album of Rachmaninov's music, moving from the Moments musicaux, Etudes-Tableaux, and Corelli Variations to two large sonatas and a trio of preludes as an intermezzo. Although Wang is perfectly capable of thundering away at the keyboard, she mostly chooses not to do so here, and for those who prefer Rachmaninov of the string-breaking sort, they may find Wang a little delicate, especially in the Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28. Her reading of the treacherous Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 36, however, is unusually strong, and not just in the knuckle-breaking passages. Delve into the first movement, with its ... counterpoint is not the right word, but simultaneity of utterance, and one will find that Wang has untangled the dense skeins of piano sound with uncommon facility and intelligence. Melodies weave their way in and out of the quieter passages under perfect control, and the slow movements of both sonatas take on a subtle reflective quality in Wang's hands. The Chandos engineering team, working at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, gives extraordinary support to Wang's low-key but strikingly dense performance.

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