Unlike most young artists who annotate their mixed recital CDs with poetic vagaries, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra’s principal violist Wenting Kang tells it like it is, so to speak. She writes that her debut CD “Mosaic” consists of “short, colorful, and individual pieces, which together create a bigger image and idea of ambience.” Happily, Kang’s articulate and clear use of language extends to her viola artistry.
She opens with Debussy’s song Beau soir, which leads into a performance of Debussy’s Première rhapsodie that’s sparklingly agile and gorgeously nuanced to the point where you don’t miss the original clarinet. Ruggiero Ricci’s brilliant unaccompanied violin transcription of Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra takes on darker hues when pitched a fifth lower for the viola. Kang’s ravishing tonal control justifies her slow tempo for Ravel’s Habanera, while she breathes gentle new life into the ubiquitous Albéniz D major Tango and overplayed Fauré Elégie and Après un rêve.
In addition to Pablo Casals’ beautiful Song of the Birds, Kang offers Akira Nishimura’s Fantasia on that very piece. Imagine one of Ysaÿe’s unaccompanied violin sonatas with the occasional microtonal passage, and you’ll get an idea of how this somber showpiece sounds. The Colón transcription of Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs makes effective use of the viola’s registral extremes, along with subtle interaction between pizzicato and high harmonics.
This cycle fully showcases Kang’s superb technique and exemplary musicianship, as well Sergei Kvitko’s remarkable collaborative pianism. His feeling for tone color, his ability to vary mood and character on a dime, and his centered sense of rhythm crucially contributes to this recital’s success, along with his splendid ear and editorial savvy as both producer and engineer. A most impressive debut, highly recommended.