08 Rachmaninoff Yuja WangRachmaninoff – Piano Concertos & Paganini Rhapsody
Yuja Wang; Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel
Deutsche Grammophon 486 4759 (deutschegrammophon.com/en/artists/yujawang)

Not long after Yuja Wang exploded on the music stage as if from the nuclear corona of the sun, one of her earliest albums (2011) with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado (DG 477 9308) featured what many critics then considered to be one of the great performances of Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini.

Wang makes her masterful presence felt once again, this time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, whose masterful conducting and direction is superbly attentive. Rachmaninoff: The Piano Concertos & Paganini Rhapsody takes the music into a rarefied realm. 

Sentimentality has no place here. The powerful authority of Wang dominates, above all, in the sheer daring of interpretations that hang fire as if possessed by the legendary Rachmaninoff despair and then explode as if suddenly bursting into flame, especially on Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor

Piano Concerto No.1 in F sharp Minor, composed when Rachmaninoff was a mere 18-years-old comes alive in the emotional ebb and flow of the music. There’s a vibrant and unpredictable edge to Wang’s playing that imparts a sense of discovery in both Concertos No.3 in D Minor and No.4 in G Minor. Throughout the 24 Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Wang is responsive to the music’s exuberance as well as its nostalgia, ending the sequence with a barely audible flutter of notes, as capricious as Niccolò Paganini’s original.

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