Yuja Wang’s meteoric rise to global stardom has been one of the most extraordinary stories of the piano world over the last decade.
When her debut CD for Deutsche Grammophon was released back in 2009 she was barely in her 20’s and many (me included) raised their eyebrows at her choice of programme, opening with Chopin’s monumental B flat minor Sonata and squeezing in performances of Scriabin’s 2nd Sonata and two Ligeti Etudes before finishing with Liszt’s Sonata in B minor. As it turned out, she performed all these with aplomb, her Liszt in particular being among the very best readings recently committed to disc.
Since then, the Chinese virtuoso has recorded concerti by Rachmaninov, Prokofiev (perhaps the most emotionally gripping performance I’ve yet heard of his grief-ridden 2nd Concerto), Ravel and Mendelssohn. Her solo discs Transformation and Fantasia have delighted fans, and she has lit up the world’s greatest concert halls with her technically explosive and musically rapt playing.
Now she’s back with a new recording. The Berlin Recital was recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal in June 2018, and features a bedazzling programme of music by Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Ligeti and Prokofiev.
Rachmaninov’s Sonata No.2 in B flat minor Op.36 is one of those gargantuan masterpieces generally only attempted by those with a truly titanic technique. But for anyone interested in playing, studying or getting to know the work, Dominik Rahmer’s brand new edition for Henle Verlag will be of profound interest.
As connoisseurs of the Sonata will probably know, there are two versions: the original 1913 version published in 1914, and the composer’s major revision published in 1931.
For this Henle publication, Rahmer has produced not one but two brand new urtext editions, printed one after the other for comparison. Adding further enticement, fingering is provided by none other than the revered concert pianist Marc-André Hamelin. So let’s have a look…
It has become fashionable, once again, for concert pianists to release recital albums containing a mixed variety of music, brought together by a particular concept.
I personally welcome this approach, finding that it leads to releases which are generally more enjoyable than listening to the completist’s rendition of a huge raft of music by one composer. But it is certainly a challenge for pianists to put together a programme that is both fresh and familiar.
Where some have failed, Georgian pianist Catherine Gordeladze has brilliantly succeeded on her new release, called Dance Fantasies.
And remarkably, about half of the music here was new to me, even though the programme strikes a fabulous balance between novelty and the comfort of the familiar.