Yuja Wang, technical brilliance, but..

Last Saturday, March 29, 2014, I had the good fortune to see Yuja Wang at Boston Symphony Hall play the fiery and technically demanding Prokofiev Piano Concerto no. 2. If you are ever going to splash money on going to see a piano concerto, this would be it. Prokofiev no. 2 requires such finger gymnastics that it is spell-bounding to watch– which I did, with as-good-as-you-can-get seat in the orchestra.

Yuja is always very much in control, a fact that you quickly realize after the intense cadenza in the first movement alone. Yet, I feel this became her undoing at times. It was too intensely controlled and for me, this concerto is about veering on the edge and pulling back, reckless and heady at some points. Even though my companion said it was the fastest piano playing she had ever seen, when compared it to Li Yundi’s recording, Yuja played slower. Despite her technical prowess (godliness), sometimes there felt to be something lacking, though being an amateur musician, I confess I cannot point to any specific causes.

There was just one other minor drawback, and again I could not pinpoint exactly what it was– Yuja herself, the piano, or the acoustics. All together, the piano was softer than I expected, and the top register seemed flat and unable to project, which is terrible since Prokofiev requires a steely ring at times, but some upper notes melted into the background instead of ringing. However, Yuja adjusted and especially during her solo parts, she was able to thunder and create an entire orchestra just within the piano. It was incredible.

The third movement was also spot-on, I could see her enjoyment and (ironic?) humor shine through the mass of accents and syncopations. It is easy to play Prokofiev aggressively but hard to add delicacy and lightness. Yuja has remarkably “fleet” fingers, able to draw out incredible subtle nuances, yet still ring clear against the mass of heavy bass notes and strings.

With Sir Andrew Davis, the orchestra itself, must again deserve a round of applause. It never dragged and highlighted some incredibly poignant dissonances I had never heard before and the coloration was fantastic. The orchestra never dragged and kept Yuja in very respectable pace, though I wish they egged her on a bit.

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3 thoughts on “Yuja Wang, technical brilliance, but..

  1. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently there’s a thing going on on tumblr that her dress was too skimpy. Did that cross your mind at all? What are your opinions about issues that pop up online like that?

    • yes, I’ve heard of that.. though it didn’t’ start on tumblr, and it is a very old “scandal”, started way before tumblr even was “cool”.

      my opinion reads like Anthony Tommasini’s, she’s young and if she has it, she can flaunt it.. and also Wang says that she can wear conservative dresses when she’s older.. totally agree.. I think there was that red dress that was a little too short (it’s fine to wear short dresses but not to the point we’re scared of seeing her underwear) but overall I’m okay with her wardrobe, because it brings a fresh vitality to what we think of classical music, stodgy and conservative.

  2. Pingback: [piano/review] NCPA & Yuja, an atmosphere of little magic | ilam

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