The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Grammy-nominated pianist Yuja Wang goes to Mumbai, India to inaugurate a new Steinway; she withholds her recital programs from the public; and she plans to release another solo CD in the spring.

December 11, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

At 24, pianist Yuja Wang (below) may not be the best pianist or most exciting classical musician on the current scene, though she is arguably both. But she certainly seems the most fan-worthy in her never-fail ability to arouse public interest and generate both praise and controversy.

So what in the world is Yuja Wang up to? And where in the world is she doing it?

Here is a Yuja Wang update:

Sponsored by Steinway and by the Indian music store Furtados, Wang recently went to Mumbai, India to officially dedicate a new Steinway D concert grand (an American, not Hamburg, Steinway) after another one piano had apparently sat silent for many years until it was no longer playable. Hmmm – do you think that would that happen to a new sitar in Mumbai?

Read all about it:

Sounds like it was a great two-hour-long concert (below, a photo of Wang playing in Mumbai taken by Furtados) with three encores and no outrage over skimpy or sexy attire.

Except that I search and search, and can’t find out WHAT she played either on the formal program or for the encores, not even in the review.

Which takes me to the second point of my update.

Go to Yuja Wang’s outstanding website – below, with lots of photos, links and information about concerts and recordings – and look under Schedule. There you will find a list of tour dates and bookings schedule for this very busy and much traveled young artist.

Notice that It lists the concertos — a lot of them and different ones.

Notice too that it does NOT list her recital repertoire.

So I recently wrote to the site and was informed by Wang’s agent that Wang does not want the programs announced to the public in advance because she often changes them from what she originally advertised.

Fair enough.

That happens a lot. Just ask Martha Argerich, the Yuja Wang of her day.

But it still isn’t reason enough to withhold what was announced and what the public thought it was going to hear when it bought tickets. Can we have some full disclosure, please? (Below, Wang plays her recital debut at Carnegie Hall in a photo by Ruby Washington of The New York TImes.)

Even worse, why doesn’t the website at least list what she in fact did play after the concert is over, even if it departed from what was originally planned for the recital?

I sure hope that is fixed soon. As a pianist and fan, I look forward to seeing more about her solo repertoire and how she builds a recital program. THat tells you something about the performer.

Finally, I have heard that Deutsche Grammophon plans on releasing a fourth CD in the spring, in April, I think.

It is to be called “Fantasia” and sounds like a concept album, kind of like her “Transformations” album that explored thene-and-variations in Brahms, Scarlatti, Ravel and Stravinsky.

But there are no details yet.

I’m betting she will play Beethoven’s “Sonata quasi una fantasia” (the sister sonata of the “Moonlight”) Op. 27, No. 1, which I read she had programmed for a recital somewhere and then she withdrew it. The description I saw also said the new CD would feature shorter works and encores. So maybe she will also play some Brahms pieces, intermezzi and capriccios,  from the Op. 116 Fantasies. Maybe Chopin’s F minor Fantasy, Polonaise-Fantasy or (please no) the Fantasie-Impromptu.

How about Mozart’s Fantasy in D minor, which is a much better piece than you would guess from what you hear at many middle school piano recitals. I suspect the Schumann Fantasy, which would play to Wang’s technical and interpretive strengths, is too long. But maybe not some of the same composer’s “Fantasy Pieces.” And Rachmaninoff wrote an early Fantasy Piece.

Anyway, it’s fun to guess at the repertoire she will record and then see what happens, especially if she wins the Grammy she has been nominated for her recording of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and his Piano Concerto No. 2” with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

In fact, wouldn’t it be fun and interesting — and very new media-ish — for Wang to ask her fans to nominate pieces via email or her website for an album and to record a “by request” CD?

Wang is certainly shaping up to be a prolific performer and recorder, which should please her fans and add to the waves of interest in her.

Would you like to know more about the recital programs of Yuja Wang, either before the fact or after?

Does anyone know what pieces and encores Wang played in Mumbai?

What do you think Yuja Wang will or should record for her “Fantasia” CD?

What would you like her to record in the future? (I’d like to hear some Bach, Schubert, short Chopin and late Brahms.)

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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