Thursday, 14 March 2013

Yuja Wang and Claudio Abbado

When commenting recently on Earl Wilde playing the Rachmaninov concertos, with Jascha Horenstein conducting, I remarked how rare it was to be admiring both conductor and soloist in works such as these. I had the same thought yesterday listening to Yuja Wang playing Rachmaninov's second concerto, and Paganini Rhapsody, with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. I was constantly admiring Abbado's contribution!

Not that Miss Wang could be overlooked. She seems to have taken lessons from Rachmaninov's own recordings, where the great pianist plays the works “straight” without all the slobbering and molto can belto that lesser pianists impose on the music; Rachmaninov's music, like Mahler's or Tchaikovsky's, does not need extra angst, agony and emotion lavished on it by the performers. The net result of the highly talented Miss Wang playing with Abbado and the (young) orchestra is an admirable freshness to these familiar works, both of them coming over almost as chamber works for large forces, such is the give and take between orchestra and soloist. Yuja Wang does not displace previous favourites, but her (live) performances here with Abbado put these versions in the highest echelon when I come to make a listening choice. The recording and balance reinforce the soloist plus orchestra character of the performances. Entirely admirable, and gives one hopes for music making in the 21st century.

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