Sala Santa Cecilia, Auditorium Parco della Musica – 13 February 2015
Recitals by the immensely talented concert pianist Yuja Wang have been a regular fixture on the Santa Cecilia programme for several years now, where she has always amazed and delighted audiences with her ever-more dazzling performances. Her formidable technique, combined with an irresistible force-of-nature stage presence, have made her appearances the must-see event of every season. Yet Yuja’s return to Rome last Friday evening saw her scale even greater heights. Alongside the fireworks and breathtaking virtuosity she brought yet more to the table – even greater tenderness and emotional depth. This was absolutely stunning playing from start to finish.
The versatile recital programme opened with three brief, yet utterly delightful, Liszt transcriptions of Schubert, followed by an exceptionally sensitive reading of Chopin’s Sonata No. 3, which emphasised the sheer beauty of Chopin's melodies. I particularly enjoyed the searching subtlety of the third movement.
With 2015 marking the centenary of Skriabin's death, the second half of the evening was almost entirely dedicated to the Russian composer. Opening with the Prelude in F-sharp minor for the Left Hand, Yuja then led us on a mesmerising journey through the composer’s musical development, with works of increasing harmonic complexity, culminating in the unsettling and menacing dissonance of the “Black Mass” Sonata. It was a thrilling ride. The final item on the scheduled programme, Balakirev’s Islamey, was an exhilarating display of bravura that brought thunderous applause at its close.
The Rome audience was rewarded with not one but three stunning encores: the exquisite Der Kontrabandiste, a rarely performed Schumann composition, followed by two hugely popular crowd pleasing gems that earned a well deserved standing ovation: Tea for Two, which proved yet further that Yuja is at home playing just about anything, even 1920s jazz, and the wonderful Horowitz arrangement of Variations on Bizet’s Carmen.
Schubert - Liszt
Schwanengesang D.957, No. 1 and No. 5
Die Schöne Müllerin D795, No. 19
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op 58
Prelude for the Left Hand, Op. 9 No. 1
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 8 in F sharp minor
Fantasie In B minor, Op. 28
Prelude, Op. 37 No. 1 in B flat minor
2 Poèmes, Op. 63
Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 “Black Mass”
Schumann - Tausig
Youmans - Tatum
Tea for Two
Bizet - Horowitz
Variations on a theme from Carmen