Author Topic: The Asian Invasion  (Read 4931 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13838
Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #80 on: October 13, 2017, 05:50:35 AM »



Yin Chengzong appears to be something of a grand old man of Chinese pianism.  Born during the Second Sino-Japanese War, he lived through the upheavals in his country for decades and had to conform to artistic norms, and he managed to have a hand in creating and performing some works that are still around today.  He moved to the US in the early 80s, worked with some Western A-listers, and did the professor thing.  This recording of Debussy's Preludes dates from the late 90s, when Yin would have been in his late 50s.

Yin's pacing overall is slightly broad at over 83', but his pacing for each piece is just about spot-on.  Never once did I think his pacing was too slow, and his dynamic shading is superb, particularly at the quiet end of the spectrum.  His playing becomes nearly strident in the loudest passages, but the una corda use prevents that from coming to fruition in all but the very loudest passages.  Too, Yin's tonal palette is nicely varied.  Danseuses de Delphes starts the cycle off just swell, but Voiles offers a better sense of what the pianism is like when nuance rules, and while Le vent dans la plaine has some of that near hardness, it also reveals Yin as a pianist who can work harmonic (near-) magic, and play with clarity sufficient to appreciate some accompaniment patterns more than normal.  Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest approaches levels of hardness and oomph I usually associate with Zimerman, but Yin does something different, turning the piece into something more expressionistic than impressionistic, if you will, a big, hardened Etude that Schoenberg might have secretly edited, which is then followed by a soft La fille aux cheveux de lin as a musical antidote.  La Cathédrale engloutie, always the climax of the first book for me, starts off tense rather than calm, and builds to grand and satisfying fortissimo, bracing in its impact.  Yin sounds even more at home in the second book, with a more modern, more Etude-y feel overall.  Sometimes he manages to sort-of miss but even more hit, as in Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses, where the playing doesn't shimmer or sound as effortless and flowing as others, but that is purposefully done, and the effect is both enjoyable and distinct.  La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune finds Yin's right-hand playing slowly, but not too slowly, ascending very deliberately before transitioning to a dynamically constrained and cool piece.  Rarely does this piece stand out so much for not really standing out at all.  Well done.  Likewise Ondine.  Though very different, Yin's right hand playing craftily evokes Ravel's piece of the same name in subtle ways mostly focused on shimmering playing, and makes me wonder what he might have done with a full Gaspard.  Yin's style in Canope and Les tierces alternées ends up emphasizing slightly slow (overall) right hand playing with lots of focus on individual notes and chords, and the Feux d'artifice starts slow-ish, with almost comical left hand chords, before the fast, shimmering right hand comes to the fore.  The playing throughout is very fine, creating any mood the pianist wants to, with Yin equally at home in gentle and tender passages and powerful, masculine ones. 

Overall, I had no real expectations for this set since I'd never heard Mr Yin's playing, but it turns out to be rather good.  It doesn't displace my established favorites, but it doesn't have to. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13838
Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #81 on: October 16, 2017, 05:24:29 AM »



I figured I might as well try some videos from Amazon while they’re free.  This one seemed like a good place to start: An even younger Yuja Wang at the 2010 Verbier Festival playing some core rep advertised as focusing on Schubert and Schumann, with some Scriabin and Prokofiev included.

The recital opens with the Liszted Gretchen am Spinnrade from Schubert.  Unsurprisingly, Wang has no problem playing the music, and she just sort of cruises along, generating lovely, tuneful music as needed, playing the repeated right hand accompaniment with a serene ease, until the very Lisztian climax, which she dispatches with ease.  She seems more at home in the more virtuosic music, and she literally doesn’t break a sweat, no matter how much of blur her hands become and how much of her shoulders she puts into it.  The same can be written about Auf dem Wasser zu singen.  Wang sounds more in control than Motoi Kawashima, which is no mean feat, but she never generates a steely sound.  Next is Erlkönig, and Wang just tears right into the piece.  Whether belting out left hand chords or dashing off repeated right hand notes, Wang just does her thing.  The playing lacks the last word in diabolicality when the boy buys the farm, but that’s because it’s too easy, though it should be stated that the playing does not want for bite and drive.  One can certainly want more in the way of warm lyricism throughout the three pieces, but that’s not what Wang wants to do, and what she wants to do she does very well, indeed.

Schuman’s Symphonic Etudes follow.  Wang’s playing style better suits the Florestan passages.  She seems to relish the faster passages, playing with verve and dexterity at the level of Yuja Wang.  She often sounds fast, but never rushed.  The Allegro marcato fourth etude is comparatively light with crisp rhythm, and the Agitato sixth etude finds Wang playing at such velocity as to nearly sound rushed.  Nearly.  In the Andante eighth etude, one encounters the shortcoming of this performance, which is a Eusebius that seems moody, possibly due to excess caffeine consumption.  It’s all outward and showy, but it works for what it is, as does the Mendelssohn-on-speed Presto possibile.  This is a version long on excitement and short on introspection and poetry, but there’s no doubting the execution, or, really, the artistic vision.

The second half of the show, with Wang donning an even nicer looking dress than in the first half, starts off with some Scriabin.  The Prelude Op 11, No 11 is slightly quick but lovely and restrained.  The Op 13, No 6 Prelude sounds bold and fiery, while Op 11, No 12 is gorgeous and dreamy, showing that Wang can produce any sound and effect she chooses.  The Prelude Op 8, No 9 returns to fiery playing.  The Poem Op 32, No 1 again reveals Wang’s more nuanced interpretive side, and makes me kinda hear what she can do with Debussy or, hell, why not, Mompou.  Volodos recorded Mompou, and that turned out well, to put it mildly. 

The last big work is Prokofiev’s Sixth Sonata.  In the Allegro moderato, Wang is not afraid to play the dissonant passages with some real sting, and while she also plays with plenty of forward momentum in the faster passages, she also observes the moderato directive and doesn’t speed through it just to speed through it.  She also plays with some touching tonal beauty in slower passages, and she real pounds out the most intense music later in the movement.  The Allegretto starts as a playful march and turns into something of a demented dance in the outer sections, though Wang keeps it from becoming dark or heavy.  Anchored by tangy right hand playing, the Tempo di valzer lentissimo is uncommonly lovely in the outer sections and rather pointed in the middle, while the Vivace closer moves forward at all times, even in the slow section, with Wang’s drive and articulation world class.  This is an outstanding performance of the Sixth, one of the best I’ve heard, and it’s the best thing I’ve heard from Wang.

The encores – Chopin’s 64/2 Waltz, a transcription by Wang of a Melody from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and Cziffra’s supervirtuosic reworking of Strauss’ Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka – all let Wang relax a bit and show what she can do in lighter fare, though not less demanding. 

Sound is excellent if not SOTA.  (I’m thinking a lossless copy would sound better than streaming.)  I think Ms Wang might just have a bright career ahead of her.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Buying Music From Amazon?
Please consider using these links. A small percentage of every sale using these links is passed on to GMG and helps keep this forum online.
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK