Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Yuja Wang Wows
The San Fracisco Symphony program last weekend looked a bit dull on paper, but turned out to be charming and thrilling in equal measure. The main reason for that was the official debut of a 20-year-old Chinese pianist, Yuja Wang, who was simply sensational playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2.
The "San Francisco Chronicle" critic, Joshua Kosman, was also entranced and wrote a good appreciation (click here for the whole thing). What most impressed me was that I'd heard the same piece in 2001 in the same hall with Roberto Abbado conducting and a young Italian pianist Gianluca Cascioli as the soloist, and the piece was dull as dirt. This performance had most of the audience on the edge of their seats.
The conductor was the 71-year-old Charles Dutoit, who was in charge of the Montreal Symphony for decades, and who is presently headed to the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra for the next four or five years. Not only does Dutoit look as if he's been provided by Central Casting for the role of Distinguished Old Conductor, but he's a great musician.
The two other pieces on the program were by Ravel and Richard Strauss from 1917, where both composers dealt with World War One by channeling French Baroque composers, Couperin in the case of Ravel ("Le Tombeau de Couperin") and Lully in the case of Strauss ("Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite"). The playing was exquisite and a herald of good things to come later this week when Dutoit takes on one of the biggies in the classical music repertory, "The Damnation of Faust" by Berlioz. I can hardly wait.