Yuja Wang’s Berlin Recital

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

Yuja Wang’s 2018 Berlin Philharmonie recital contains some of her most consistent and gratifying performances to date. There’s a newfound sense of direction and proportion in how she doles out rubato and inner voices in the Rachmaninov selections, while passages requiring steady rhythm and forward momentum are spiced up with unexpected yet stylishly appropriate accents.

Wang’s Scriabin Tenth may be the most galvanic and sexiest since Horowitz’s. She shapes the long chains of trills with purposeful variety in regard to color, articulation, and dynamics, while bringing uncommon contrapuntal point to the music’s harmonic ambiguity. Her Prokofiev Eighth sonata is similarly line-oriented, and she shares Sviatoslav Richter’s ability to organically integrate the fusion of power and lyricism that characterizes the long outer movements. By keeping the central Andante sognando largely steady, elegant, and understated, Wang’s expressive touches become all the more meaningful.

Of the three Ligeti Etudes, Vertige comes off best, and rarely has it sounded so suave and transparent. Too bad that Wang doesn’t sustain the supple lightness with which she begins Touches Bloquées and Désordre, but that’s understandable in a concert situation. The engineering captures Wang’s soft playing beautifully, but turns strident in loud passages. Although there was plenty of room for Deutsche Grammophon to include the recital’s four encores, the label decided to release them on a special EP that is sold separately. Such blatant consumer exploitation should be called out and protested.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: The Berlin Recital
Reference Recording: Scriabin Sonata No. 10: Horowitz (Sony), Prokofiev Sonata No. 8: Richter (DG), Ligeti Etudes: Ullen (BIS)

SERGEI RACHMANINOV: Preludes Op. 23: No. 5 in G minor; Etudes-Tableaux Op. 39: No. 1 in C minor; Etudes-Tableaux Op. 33: No. 3 in C minor; Preludes Op. 32: No. 10 in B minor
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 10 Op. 70
GYÖRGY LIGETI: Etudes 1, 3, & 9
SERGEI PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major Op. 84

  • Yuja Wang (piano)

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