Yuja Wang | Symphony Center | Classical | Chicago Reader

Yuja Wang Critic's Choice Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., March 13, 3 p.m. 2011

Born in China, trained at the Curtis Institute under Gary Graffman, possessed of phenomenal technique . . . sound familiar? Once flattered by the comparisons to Lang Lang, 24-year-old pianist Yuja Wang now seeks her own identity. Her artistry may still be catching up to her physical skills, but she's determined to be appreciated for more than just flying fingers—though you wouldn't know it from this fiendishly difficult program. She begins with Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Corelli, which is actually based on an old Portuguese melody used by Corelli; it's the only solo piano work Rachmaninov wrote after leaving Russia. The 20 variations are more sober and tightly focused than his better-known pieces, but they can still absorb all the virtuosity and expressiveness that a performer can throw at them. Next comes the real challenge: Schubert's neurotic Sonata in C Minor, D. 958. The first of three sonatas completed in the composer's last months, it's an awkward but powerful piece with an unsettled character that's difficult to capture and balance. Wang opens the second half with a selection of early Scriabin, and she's sensational in these beguiling miniatures. The three finger-benders that close the concert—Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain (arranged by Chernov), Mendelssohn's Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream (arranged by Rachmaninov), and Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre (arranged by Horowitz)—demand to be seen as well as heard. —Steve Langendorf

Price: $17-$75

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