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Yuja Wang: Transformation and Transcriptions

img  Tobias Fischer

The recording of Yuja Wang’s second solo recital, Transformation, was released in April by Deutsche Grammophon. The album includes three movements – from Pétrouchka by Stravinsky, Scarlatti’s Sonata in E major K. 380, Andante comodo and Sonata in F minor/C major K. 466, Andante moderato; Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini op. 35, Books I & II; and Maurice Ravel’s La Valse. The Yuja Wang recording follows her Sonatas & Etudes, the highly acclaimed debut that was nominated for a Grammy® Award in the Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra) category – and which International Piano magazine named Best Debut Album of 2009.

Michael Church, in the album’s liner notes, explains the aforementioned concept of transformation: “Yuja Wang’s title for her recording reflects the Buddhist idea that life consists of constant change, and she finds its musical rationale in Brahms’ transforming his theme 27 times, Ravel’s transforming the waltz by testing it to destruction, and Stravinsky’s puppet Petrushka’s being temporarily transformed into a human being before finally reverting to puppethood.” 

The Transformation album begins with Stravinsky’s adaptation of three movements from his ballet, Pétrouchka. But instead of just transcribing the orchestral version, Stravinsky attempted to compose purely pianistic music. The finished work, which was written for Arthur Rubinstein, is one of the most challenging in the solo piano repertoire – but it does offer a pianist the opportunity to showcase technical virtuosity. Ravel transcribed his own work La Valse for solo piano, but not for the purpose of creating a technical showpiece. He re-interpreted the Viennese waltz for piano, creating a work of impressive instrumental ambience. The Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini, which is similarly technically difficult, is also rich in emotion, offering the pianist to feature a variety of styles. The work’s simple theme is that of Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 in A minor for solo violin, with variations in both difficultly and character. Yuja Wang’s performance sequences the variations by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, whose piano expertise she admires, and also performs a pair of one-movement Scarlatti sonatas, both of which are sweetly expressive.

Homepage: Yuja Wang
Homepage: Deutsche Grammophon Records

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