We are at the cusp of transition from one generation of pianists to another, but a name stands out as exception to clear distinction between grand old musicians and brilliant young talent. Yuja Wang doesn't fit into those (arbitrary) boxes.
At only 25, Yuja (her own preference for second reference) is an old soul, and seemingly in the vanguard for a long, long time. In fact, it's been a dozen years - half her life - that she's been winning international contests and hearts around the world, plus engagements with major orchestras, so she is neither a newcomer nor a member of the <em>ancien régime</em>. She is what she is, one of the finest pianists - and, importantly, musicians - of our time.
And she has now produced her fourth Deutsche Grammophon CD, "Fantasia," which follows [...]"Sonatas & Etudes"</a> (2009), [...]"Transformation</em>" (2010), and [...]"Rachmaninov"</a> (2011).
It is a varied, capricious, collection of miniatures, just a few minutes each, the longest being a 10-minute tribute to Mickey Mouse - quite a change since the large-scale collection of "Transformation."
Almost all tracks come from Yuja's large storehouse of encores; she needs many because her recital audiences unvariably demand - and almost always - receive them.
Four brief Rachmaninov [not Rachmaninoff, according to this album] pieces lead the way, played with unshowy brilliance, power, and her usual complete authority over the keyboard. The stormy Étude-tableau in A minor Op. 39 No. 6 is a grand calling card; Op. 39 No. 4 is swift, playful; Op. 39 No. 5 has a quiet, but persistent romantic sweep.
Élégie in E flat minor Op. 3 No. 1, wisely slipped in between No. 4 and No. 5, is meandering, Chopinesque, a change from the mood shared by the Étude-tableaux.
Scarlatti, a Yuja perennial, appears here only with the two-minute-long Sonata in G major K. 455, an irresitible melodic cascade of pearls, over before you can catch your breath.
For contrast, the poignant Melody from Gluck's "Orfeo ed Euridice" follows, giving way to Albéniz's sweeping "Triana," from Iberia, Book II.
One of Yuja's heroes, Vladimir Horowitz, is responsible for two transcriptions: the Gypsy Song, from Bizet's "Carmen," and the CD-closing virtuoso "Dance macabre," by Saint-Saëns (in Liszt's arrangement). The "Carmen" excerpt is marked "White House version" because it became famous in Horowitz's televised White House concert in 1978.
There are many other cuts, including a superb collection of five Scriabin miniatures, but let's get back to Mickey Mouse. Everybody's favorite rodent will inevitably come to mind while listening to Yuja's tempestuous "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," in Victor Staub's arrangement.
The Disney film is now showing in San Francisco's Disney Family Museum, but meanwhile, enjoy Yuja's tribute to it.