This is Yuja Wang’s first ever recorded album. It is, so to speak, her debut on disc. With a challenging programme – comprising warhorses by Chopin, Liszt and Scriabin, plus two etudes by contemporary composer György Ligetti – she offers to the musical world an impressive visit card. Not only her dazzling virtuosity, but especially that unique musical insight that surfaces each piece she plays and a clean structural conception running through the entire recital, highlight Yuja’s performance in sharp contrast to other virtuosos’ pyrotechnical renditions. If one listens to this recording without knowing who the performer is, one would stress the exquisite technical achievement secondly, after recognizing the maturity of the vision. Chopin’s Sonata no.2 (with the celebrated Funeral march) receives here a less pathetic approach but a more consistent projective light (maybe a cooler one, but utterly appropriate), while Liszt’s B minor Sonata comes out touching and convincing, yet somehow feminine and gracious without the need to “storm” the keyboard (like other versions, some by true legends of the piano). For Scriabin and Ligetti, Yuja Wang finds as well the proper timbres and most effective lights. Astonishing debut by a pianist in her early twenties at the time of recording!
Yuja Wang has done it again! I have heard many performances of both the Chopin and Liszt sonatas, but never any better. The Ligeti etudes are also one with style and perfect mastery. A remarkable pianist!
It is tempting to say that there are a few great performances among the many, many recordings of the Liszt sonata and that they are all by Emil Gilels (Salzburg, 1970 on Orfeo and the 1965 RCA studio recording are essential). But Yuja Wang is also the real thing, and her beautifully recorded performance is among the very best. Wherever it is possible to draw the wrong kind of attention to yourself, she is sure-footed, artistically and interpretatively right on the money. She draws attention only to the music, and yet she is also her own voice. She has that magnificent quality of being able to make you listen, occasionally seeming to stop time. Right from the off, the descending octaves force you to listen. The leaping subject is daring and powerful but not rhythmically distorted for the sake of accuracy. Then the repeated-note theme is chilling, the last note abruptly clipped, the phrase as a whole again so musical. And so it goes on: virtuosity of the highest order at the service of one of the greatest masterpieces of the 19th century and one of the greatest solo piano works in the entire repertoire. As DG's artwork shows, Yuja Wang is a very striking young woman, but that is wholly incidental to this astonishingly mature and musically rewarding performance. And, of course, that is just the Liszt. Another joy of this album is the fact that is could be a recorded concert - the Chopin funeral march sonata and Scriabin's beautiful second sonata making up the programme along with two of Gyorgy Ligeti's extraordinary etudes including the spookily fantastic Sorcerer's Apprentice. So, a good-looking young woman who is a great pianist giving a truly wonderful concert on a very attractive DG disc...? Yes, that's about it. While I have been writing the Liszt sonata has just finished. I was listening to Gilels earlier today. Marvellous. But I have just put Ms Wang's CD back to the start of the Liszt and am playing it again. We are blessed with many fine young performers today, men and women. Make no mistake, Yuja Wang is one of the most remarkable.
Yuja Wang's debut CD is impressive, indeed. Her Liszt Sonata is a wonder of technique, shading and sensitivity. That's my choice on this CD. I don't particulary care for Chopin's Funeral March Sonata or Scriabin's Sonata No.2, as they are both disjointed works. The Ligeti Etudes, however, are interesting. If you haven't yet seen the videos of Yuja on YouTube, you're missing quite a bit. She's an engaging performer. I'm looking forward to hearing and seeing more of her!