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At 31, Yuja Wang is reaping the promise of keyboard talent displayed in earlier years. In this intelligent, sensibly compiled programme, works by György Ligeti are a triumph, perhaps no surprise to Yujaphiles familiar with the pianist’s affi nities with this composer, included on her debut CD a decade ago. Ligeti’s Étude No 3Touches bloquées’ captures the cosmic reach of the Hungarian master, evoking unstoppable noises of the universe. One feels that Ligeti himself would have revelled in this performance. Étude No 9 ‘Vertige’ likewise conveys cyclic nature through rainfall-like effects, in what might otherwise be mistaken for an intellectual exercise in modernist expression, akin to the works of the German composer Helmut Lachenmann. Étude No 1 ‘Désordre’ is dispatched with Gallic panache, like a French modernist depiction of automobile traffi c around the Arc de Triomphe. (Would that Wang next turned her attention to the works of Witold Lutosławski, among other 20th-century composers for piano.)

In other highlights, Scriabin’s Sonata No 10, Op 70 has a spectral quality that reflects much focus on sound texture. The rest of the CD is not always as satisfying. Rachmaninov’s Prelude Op 23/5 has elegance and rhythmic command, a patrician reading akin to Chopin’s sound portraits of equestrians. But Rachmaninov’s Étude-tableau Op 33/3 is emotionally neutral, hardly plumbing the depths of the composer’s neuroses, while his Prelude Op 32/10 has Debussy-like delicacy, yet lacks profound emotion. In Prokofiev’s Sonata No 8, the concentration on sound quality omits a more acerbic narrative sense or tragic emotional background. Wang can play anything, but in some music, she has yet to convince us exactly why she is playing it.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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