Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Yuja Wang in Rachmaninov

The live performance of Rachmaninov's third piano concerto by Yuja Wang with the Venezuelan orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel is a real triumph. No doubt some grumpy critics will opine that Herr Blankensof, or whoever, finds greater depth in the work, or whatever. But when the music demands lyricism, Wang is lyrical. When it demands tenderness, Wang is tender. When it demands molto bravura; Wang positively flies. At times I almost found myself shouting “Go, Yuja, Go!”

Until now, my favourite performance of this work has been by Martha Argerich. The Chinese now beats the Argentinian by a short head – helped maybe by Wang's being a live (very live) performance and by the Venezuelan orchestra sounding really on its toes; too many orchestras, when playing virtuoso concertos, fall back on autopilot. Not here. The CD also contains a live performance of Prokofiev's second piano concerto, but I have been so enthralled by Yuja Wang in the Rachmaninov that Prokofiev is having to wait.

The only sour note, is DG's liner note packaging. Tacky in the extreme, with multiple photos of Miss Wang and Dudamel, but just one small one each of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. Instead of taking up a full page with a somewhat vulgar photo of the rear view of Miss Yang, DG could have given us more on the two composers who did, after all, make a significant contribution to the CD. In the old days, DG was famous for its tasteful LP sleeves. The current team, however, seems to think it is marketing young flesh and celebrity, rather than great performances of great music. Yuja deserves better.

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