ISRAEL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA Jerusalem ICC, January 22

If Wang’s performance was exemplary, her refusal to engage the audience was a stinging disappointment.

By GILAD FRIEDMAN
January 25, 2015 22:54
2 minute read.
CHINESE PIANIST Yuja Wang

CHINESE PIANIST Yuja Wang performs with IPO in Jerusalem.. (photo credit: SUSANNE DIESNER)

 
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Dazzling. There is simply no other word to describe Yuja Wang, the 27-year-old Chinese pianist touring the country this week with the Israel Philharmonic. Performing Ravel’s Concerto in G Major, Wang combines astounding control over the keyboard with the vibrancy of youth to create a compelling, rich sound. With her customary flair – a bright red, revealing dress with a long slit up one side seems as much a part of her performance as her phenomenal technique – she attacked the complicated first movement with her customary vigor – clean, bright, crisp, with clean glissandi throughout.

Later, during the Presto third movement, her spectacular finger work was on full display as she navigated quick staccato chord progressions and challenging passages with barely a second thought, and it was clear she was enjoying the music.

However, it was during the second movement, a passionate Adagio assai, that Wang displayed the depth of her rich musicality. In a non-flashy movement that bridges the two up-tempo ones, her careful attention to dynamic contrast and elegant phrasing laid to rest criticisms by some reviewers; while Wang certainly is certainly a master of technique, she is far more than merely a technician.

If Wang’s performance was exemplary, her refusal to engage the audience was a stinging disappointment.

Following the concerto, her final bow seemed little more than obligatory, and her refusal to perform an encore, despite sustained applause from an enthralled audience, left a feeling of not exactly being cheated, then at least of being shortchanged.


Still, the evening was far from a disappointment.

One would not expect the highlight of a concert with Yuja Wang to be the orchestral finale, but the orchestra’s rendition of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as the finale of an all-Ravel program (the French composer transformed the composition, originally written for piano solo, into the orchestra work that is considered the standard performance today) was powerful and strong. From the first downbeat, the trumpet theme set the stage for a compelling musical tour through Mussorgsky’s gallery exhibition of the works of fellow Russian artist Viktor Hartmann.

The light movements – “Tuileries” and “The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks in their Shells” – were moving and flawless, despite some difficult passages that have challenged lesser orchestras.

Finally, conductor Lionel Bringuier carefully led a nuanced, inspiring climax, with the finale, “The Great Gate of Kiev,” strong and proud.

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