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Yuja Wang

Discussion in 'Pianists' started by pianolady, Mar 14, 2011.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I attended her concert in Chicago today. First off, she is the youngest of the touring concert-pianists I have seen play! She's only 24 years old and with sort of a punky-style haircut and probably weighs no more than 100 pounds. She looked like a little pixie, like a young girl. But look out boys, because this girl can play!

    Her programs was as follows:

    - Rachmaninov - Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42
    - Schubert - Piano Sonata in C Minor D.958
    - Scriabin - Preludes Op. 11, nos. 11 and 12; Prelude Op. 13, no. 6; Etude Op. 8, no. 9; Poem Op. 32, no. 1
    - Mussorgsky (arr. Chernov) - Night on Bald Mountain
    - Mendelssohn (arr. Rachmaninov) - Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream
    - Saint-Saens (arr. Horowitz, after Liszt) - Danse Macabre, Op. 40

    I'll just say that she has such fantastic technique and control of her tone. Her pianissimos were so soft I could hardly hear the music. Maybe her loudest parts could be a little bit louder, but mostly she could get a big sound when needed.

    Regarding the pieces, the ones that made the most impression on me were the last three. OMG, that 'Night on Bald Mountain' was incredible! Just stunning!! I've never seen someone's hands move so fast!!! Really neat music too. Although from I understand, it's not completely Mussorgsky's, because Rimsky-Korsakov often edited Mussorgsky's compositions to make them flow better. This piece was originally an orchestral piece but Rimsky-Korsokov had to do quite a lot editing to make it into something presentable. Then a man by the name of Konstantin Chernov transcribed the piece to piano. Again, it is a really cool piece!

    I love Rachmaninov's arrangement of Mendelssohn's 'Scherzo'. I like it even better than Mendelssohn's orchestral/original version. Wang played it as perfect as could be - very light and quick. I practiced this piece a long time ago but never finished it. Maybe one day I'll put it back on my piano. Then came 'Danse Macabre'. Again, another 'wow' piece! Funny how Saint-Saens wrote the piece as a symphonic poem - then Liszt made it into a flamboyant piano version, which we all know means that he added tons of virtuosic flourishes. But even that wasn't enough for Horowitz who embellished the piece even more and it became one of his trademark showpieces.

    Wang played three encores, the first one I did not know. The second one was Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca but it was one of those super-duper, pimped-up versions. I don't know who arranged it, but it sure had wow-factor! Her third piece I actually know very well because I'm practicing it myself. It's a real pretty piece by Gluck called "Melody from Orpheus". Very sad and beautiful.
     
  2. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    It would have been the Volodos arrangement.

    I'm not completely convinced by her but her technique is certainly impressive.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the info, Andrew. I thought maybe there are more pimped-up versions of Alla Turca, because I've heard it also played as one hand playing Alla Turca and the other hand playing Chopin's 'Winter Wind' etude at the same time. Talk about mind-boggling!! And IIRC, there's also a version with one person playing three different pieces, including Alla Turca at the same time. Beyond mind-boggling.... :roll:
     
  4. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    This is all very well as circus fare, but is it music?
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I would say no. In fact I positively hate this kind of mindless bravura, only meant to show-case your technique
    and mind-boggle the audience. I'd have thought (hoped) Wang's musical taste was better than that.

    I don't mind ultra-virtuosity if it is backed up by adequate musical substance and intellectual interest, like
    e.g. Hamelin's triple Chopin Etude. Just packing as many gimmicks as possible into a silly little tune, just
    because you can, is IMO not what music is about.
     
  6. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I would go further and say that virtuosity is only justified when the result is great music. If were ever I become a virtuoso (which is highly unlikely) I would rather no one noticed it, except for another pianist who knows the work being performed. After all, it is the music that matters.

    It brings to mind when I took lessons and such tricks, like lifting the hand a foot in the air after striking a note or leaping with one hand while the other stood idle, merited a r symbolic rap on the head.
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, the finest virtuosos are those who do not feel the need to show off.
     
  8. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I know what you guys are saying, but I’ve been to a lot of concerts and enjoy these ‘showy’ pieces. Maybe because I’m actually watching a live person - it is amazing to witness such high technical skill close-up! And Wang’s showy pieces in this concert were played perfectly, IMO. Especially the Mussorsky and Saint-Saens. Not a wrong note or slip-up, and very musically-played. I doubt any of you here would have been any less amazed than I was by her performance.

    As far as programming these kinds of pieces in a concert, I can only say that I’ve been near to actually falling asleep in concerts that did not include these types of exciting pieces. In particular, Schiff has put me to sleep every time I’ve seen him in concert because all he plays is traditional Beethoven, Schumann, Bach, etc…. I’m not saying that he did or does not play this music very well; it’s just that a whole two hours of it gets boring. If he would have played just one ‘showy’ piece for an encore, I would have a different opinion about him. Every concert-pianist should always include a showy piece if they want their audience to go away with not only a favorable impression, but an impression that lasts!
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oh yes, a recital needs some fireworks alright. I can well imagine Schiff's recitals being a bit boring with all the Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.
    Now, as Wang has recorded some stuff like Ravel's la Valse, Stravinsky's Petrouchka and Ligeti's Etudes, she could have chosen something that was both exhilarating AND musically interesting. Even if it was only the Islamey or some other old warhorse.
     
  10. sarah

    sarah New Member

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    I get the impression that Wang has a lot of music-making potential, but it might take a little maturity for her to want to fully employ it. She still mostly enjoys the thrill of lightning fingers, which she indeed has. :shock: At least, that's my 2-cent take... I am interested to see how she grows, and I believe she can mature to be something really wonderful!

    And now that I know that I am the same age as Wang... well, it makes me sober up very quickly to a starkly realistic view of my own meager piano skills. :wink:
     
  11. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Just saw her playing the Alla Turka on YouTube.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1fgo7hp ... re=related

    A. She's very pretty :wink:
    B. She's very prodigious in her technical prowess
    C. IMO, she will follow in the catagory of Argerich and Berman
    D. Hearing her play the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie Op.61, I hear a mature, artistic and elegant performance with technique subservient to and serving of the music.
    E. I would love to hear her play the Schulz-Evler arrangement of Straus's The Blue Danube Waltz, that no one can touch when compared to J. Lhevinne (even J. Bolet), but she may do it great justice.
    F. An observation (perhaps controversial): I find her technique to be peculiarly "un-oriental" and western in it's shape of the hand. What I mean, is that I have found most pianists trained in China, Japan and Korea to have a very low (flat) hand when playing chords and especially octaves, where those trained in more German and Russian schools of technique have an arched hand for same. In this way, her technique is more "western."

    I think she is right were she should be for a young prodigious pianist.
     
  12. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I agree with you there, Monica. Where I live whenever a pianist comes along, say Perahia, what is the Programme? Never a mixed one! No no no!! Not Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and a little Schumann, as it was in days of yore, but if it is Mozart, it must be an all Mozart concert and in order of K's: Sonatas K 330, 331 and 332, interval, Sonatas K 334, 335 and 336, and as an encore the Fantasia in c major. (Yes, I know those K's do not correspond to sonatas, but I give but an example).

    It reminds me of my father's comments when seeing that some pianist or another was playing all of Chopin's 25 preludes: "Now, imagine losing count at Prelude 5".

    For myself I can say I like Bortkiewicz and I like his Lamentations and Consolations, but when I tried listening to the complete set... My, how I was bored by the time they finally finished.

    It is the ecyclopaedic approach to music.
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I have just seen that video. It is a perfect example of a piece that could well remain unwritten.
     
  14. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    I agree with you here Richard. One of the pianists I studied with was a "genre" specialist. He performed the Chopin 24 Etudes for his Bachelor's Recital. Since then he would often perform all the Etudes of Chopin, all the Preludes of Debussy, all the Chopin Scherzos, all the Chopin Ballades, etc. There is truth to the phrase, "Too much of a good thing."
     
  15. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is much harder than the Volodos alla turca (which is imo quite playable).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl5lf_Nx ... re=related

    It's very impressive that she (or anyone else for that matter) can play this; however I don't think it's nearly as good as the original recording (she misses out a small section as well, but that's quibbling).
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Tightrope walking, if you ask me and just asd impressive, but why would anyone want to play this?
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow!!! Very impressive, indeed. Forget about playing that...I would not even want to practice it. Would certainly be the end of me!
     
  18. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    As I listened to her for the first time, I had the same thought (I had started a thread about her on this "Pianist Forum" and only Alfonso was interested - and judged her "boring") and I've followed her performances in Verbier for years. But her development is very disappointing. She doesn't get any better in her interpretations and artistic maturity, but just keeps up the good technique. The worst thing I experienced from her was a duo performance with Joshua Bell (Beethoven's Kreuzer sonata) in the last year. What I thought all the time was: "Poor Bell... he would never play with her again!" He did his best to harmonize with his partner, but Wang destoyed all his efforts.
     
  19. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ugh... another awful case of note diarrhoea, this Cziffra thing.
    Wasting your efforts on drivel like this can't be good for one's musical development. It's not even a very charming performance. It's time for Wang to dig into some late Schubert instead of continuing to prove she can play more fast notes than anyone.
     
  20. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Guess I am not as critical a listener as the rest of you here. I am always impressed by pianists who play like Wang or really by anyone who plays virtuosic piano pieces. They can knock out two or three 'showy' pieces in a row and make it look easy, when I have to spend almost a whole year trying to get down one Goyescas or Chopin's Barcarolle. Really, I don't understand how you all can have such negative criticism toward Wang, or Kissin for that matter. Both played not only showy pieces in their concerts, but also slower, gentler pieces - very musically played! But their technical skill regarding lightning-fast notes and such - what's wrong with being impressed by that?! It's supposed to be impressive! And I don't understand when you say there is room in some of those kinds of pieces to make them yet more musical. How can that be? There is no time in the music for anything more. :?

    So...well... I just don't get all this. Maybe if I spent more time listening to CDs or watching videos, I'd be better able to judge the 'musicianship' of players. I suppose it has a lot to do with the actual pieces I'm listening to, as well -- i.e. I can tell if a player plays a Chopin mazurka well, but I would not know if the player plays a 'showy' piece well, since mostly likely I've never looked at the music myself or taken time to compare players.

    Okay, that's my last two cents. I have a couple more concerts coming up in my series: Kissin again on Friday and Andsnes the week after that. Probably I will be amazed and impressed as usual... :roll: :)
     

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