Nikolai Demidenko used to be routinely described as a “force of nature” but, on the strength of this recital, notwithstanding cover hype and glitzy glamour, that accolade could equally be accorded to Yuja Wang. She brings an unashamedly sumptuous quality to the notorious Alla marcia Rachmaninov G Minor Prelude and a searching yet harrowing quality to the B Minor Prelude, Op. 32 No 10. The Op. 39 No 1 Etude Tableau is quick-paced and demands a tireless right hand, a syncopated left hand and considerable dexterity. Technically, Wang makes the music into an almost continual climax while fusing power with a strange sort of intellectual control. In Op. 33, No 3 she is solemnly lyrical.
The second half of this Berlin recital was given over to Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata, the last in his so-called War Trilogy. I was unfamiliar with it and was surprised at its cool, rather detached opening (in Wang’s hands) and even the torso of the movement was not as furious as I had expected, but deeply philosophical and cogent as much as flashy. The second movement, strangely titled Andante sognando (dream-like), is unashamedly sentimental yet Wang makes it somehow curiously off-centre, like watching a couple performing a minuet when they’re itching to tango. In the finale she raises the bar with frenetic explosive tension. The Ligeti pieces are the cherry on the cake in terms of cerebral virtuosity. For once, the hype is completely justified.
Composer: Rachmaninov, Prokofiev
Performer: Yuja Wang p
Catalogue Number: DG 4836280