Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 10
The winner of the prestigious 2011 Deutscher Musikwettbewerb, pianist Miao Huang (who also is a mathematician) offers a Chopin and Ravel recital that easily justifies her victory and attests to her considerable keyboard capabilities. She opens with Chopin’s B minor sonata, playing the first movement clearly and directly, with tonal variety to spare. The Scherzo is beautifully nuanced and rounded, although Hamelin and Hough shape the Trio with firmer lines and less pedal. In an era where young pianists tend to probe the Largo for profundities and drag it into the ground, Huang’s pretty and fluid pianism is more than welcome, despite her slightly reticent left hand in the outer sections. However, her sectional ritards and phrase taperings compromise the finale’s terse momentum. Such expressive devices work better in the Barcarolle to counterbalance Huang’s tendency to push when the textures thicken.
If Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit is not so characterfully brash in the manner of Argerich, Pogorelich, Grosvenor, and Schuch, it’s difficult to discount Huang’s easy command and communicative sweep. She articulates the inner rhythms in Ondine’s right-hand ostinato figurations with remarkable point and consistency, and makes light work of the descending double notes prior to the climax. While Le gibet’s textural levels are wonderfully differentiated, the basic tempo slightly slows down as the music progresses, in contrast to, say, Michelangeli’s unflappable steadiness. Huang traverses Scarbo’s dramatic peaks with confident bravura, and allows herself to milk softer sections without a trace of indulgent lingering. She may not boast the world’s lightest, most audacious repeated notes (Pogorelich and Grosvenor rule the roost here), nor match the impact of Thibaudet’s playful dynamic contrasts, yet this is world-class piano playing by any standard, and superbly recorded too.
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