Yuja Wang: piano
Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funebre'
Ligeti: Etude No. 4 'Fanfares' / Etude No. 10 'Der Zauberlehrling'
Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor, S178
Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in G sharp minor, Op. 19 'Sonata Fantasy'
Gramophone Editor's Choice - August 2009
Wholenote Discoveries - June 2009
Among those joining the line of gifted young pianists emerging from China is Yuja Wang, a 22 year old from Beijing, now living in New York. A graduate of the Beijing Conservatory and the Curtis Institute, Wang made her debut at 16 with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich with David Zinman - and this new CD, the first of five to be recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, is ample evidence of her talents. An eclectic collection, it features music by Chopin, Ligeti, Scriabin and Liszt. From the beginning, it's clear that Ms. Wang possesses a dazzling technique – little wonder she chose such demanding repertoire! Yet at the same time, fast fingers shouldn’t be an end unto themselves. For example, I found the opening movement of the Chopin piano sonata in B flat minor a little disconcerting – never have I heard it played so briskly. Surely, a musical depiction of a race-horse is not what Chopin had in mind! On the other hand, the lyrical and introspective opening movement of the Scriabin Piano Sonata #2 is approached with great sensitivity. Two etudes by Ligeti may seem an odd choice on a disc of Romantic repertoire, but it is their very nature of contrast (#4 even hinting at the style of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk) that Wang decided to include them. Rounding out the disc is the great Liszt B minor piano sonata, a true tour de force. Not surprisingly, she has full command of this most challenging work – those thundering octaves and arpeggios roll off her hands with apparent ease. This is indeed an impressive first disc by a young artist to watch out for in years to come. But for her next recording, may I suggest a little less bravura and a little more poetry? Richard Haskell