Christian Thielemann

Christian Thielemann

Monday, September 26, 2016

Maurice Ravel: Piano Concertos – Yuja Wang, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Lionel Bringuier (Audio video)






















As a concerto soloist, Yuja Wang is best known for playing the Russian blockbusters of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev, but this all-French album from Deutsche Grammophon reveals her talents in a different light. Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major and his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major are among the most effervescent in the repertoire, and Wang sparkles with charm and energy, sometimes giving a feeling of being lighter than air when playing with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, under the direction of Lionel Bringuier. Most of the magic may be in Ravel's carefully voiced scoring, which creates space around the piano and makes it completely audible, but Wang deserves credit for her controlled touch, seemingly effortless virtuosity, and elegant phrasing, which are always in evidence, even in the more frenetic passages. Gabriel Fauré's Ballade in F sharp major is a solo piano piece that provides a palate cleanser between the concertos, and here Wang offers an intimate reading that is both rich in sonorities and transparent in all its details.

Source: Blair Sanderson (allmusic.com)



On paper, this first foray into French territory by one of today's star pianists looks promising. The Tonhalle Orchestra was the first European orchestra with whom Yuja Wang appeared, aged 15; she performed regularly with them during the 2014-2015 season; added to which she and Bringuier are very much on the same wavelength musically. "There was", she says, "little to discuss during rehearsals".

A good project on paper does not always translate to a successful recording. In this case, however, it does – with knobs on. Five years ago, when I wrote a Collection piece for these pages on Ravel's G major Concerto, I put Jean Casadesus at the top, closely followed by Anne Queffélec, Michelangeli and Argerich. I’m not sure I wouldn't have awarded the palme d’or to this recording. The outer movements are so deliciously light, like the most perfect soufflé, executed with disarming insouciance by pianist and orchestra alike, exemplified by the cheeky clarinet and trombone licks at the start of the third movement. Yet the central section of the first movement with the important harp solo is uncommonly eerie, as is that dissonant passage in the slow movement (4'28", fig 4). You could not wish for a more atmospheric account of this concerto  nor a more thrilling one.

The same applies to the Left Hand Concerto with an opening that is truly sinister (in both senses) but where Yuja Wang keeps the texture feather-light in the G major, here she employs the full ringing resonance of her instrument. Technically, of course, she is fairly awesome in a recording of crystalline clarity and depth. Between the two concertos comes a crisp, unsentimental account of the original solo version of Fauré's Ballade.

Source: Jeremy Nicholas (gramophone.co.uk)



Στο πρόσφατο άλμπουμ της, η διάσημη Κινέζα πιανίστρια Γιούτζα Ουάνγκ ερμηνεύει τα Κοντσέρτα για πιάνο του Μωρίς Ραβέλ: το Κοντσέρτο σε Σολ μείζονα και το Κοντσέρτο για το αριστερό χέρι σε Ρε μείζονα. Μεταξύ των δύο Κοντσέρτων παρεμβάλει τη Μπαλάντα σε Φα δίεση μείζονα, έργο 19, για σόλο πιάνο, του Γκαμπριέλ Φωρέ. Την Ορχήστρα Tonhalle της Ζυρίχης διευθύνει ο Γάλλος αρχιμουσικός Lionel Bringuier. Η ηχογράφηση των Κοντσέρτων του Ραβέλ έγινε τον Απρίλιο του 2015 στη Ζυρίχη, στην αίθουσα συναυλιών Tonhalle (έδρα της ομώνυμης Ορχήστρας), ενώ η ηχογράφηση της Μπαλάντας του Φωρέ έγινε τον Μάιο του ίδιου έτους, στο Teldex Studio στο Βερολίνο. Το CD κυκλοφόρησε το 2015, από τη βρετανική εταιρεία Decca, αποσπώντας εξαιρετικές κριτικές.



Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

♪ Piano Concerto in G major (1931)

i. Allegramente
ii. Adagio assai
iii. Presto


Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

♪ Ballade in F Sharp major, Op.19 (1877-1879)

Andante cantabile – Allegro moderato – Andante – Allegro – Andante – Allegro moderato


Maurice Ravel

♪ Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (1929-1930)

i. Lento – Andante
ii. Allegro
iii. Tempo I


Yuja Wang, piano

Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich
Conductor: Lionel Bringuier

Recordings: Tonhalle, Zurich, April 2015 (Ravel) & Teldex Studio, Berlin, May 2015 (Fauré)

Deutsche Grammophon 2015

(HD 1080p – Audio video)

Photo by Norbert Kniat
















Yuja Wang was born in Beijing on February 10, 1987, and encouraged at a young age to make music by her dancer mother and percussionist father, starting the never-ending thirst for knowledge that has sustained her musical development. Yuja began piano lessons at the age of six and her progress was accelerated by studies at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. In 1999 she moved to Canada to participate in the Morningside Music summer programme at Calgary's Mount Royal College and thereafter enrolled as the youngest ever student at Mount Royal Conservatory. Wang's exceptional gifts were widely recognised in 2001 with her appointment as a Steinway Artist, and again the following year when she was offered a place at Philadelphia's prestigious Curtis Institute of Music where she studied with Gary Graffman.

By the time Yuja graduated from the Curtis Institute in May 2008, she had already gathered momentum following the spectacular success of her debut three years earlier with the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa. Wang attracted widespread international attention in March 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich on short notice in performances of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and within the span of just a few seasons she was working with conductors of the highest calibre. Over the past ten years of her career, she has worked with such pre-eminent Maestros as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Valery Gergiev, Michael Tilson Thomas, Antonio Pappano, Charles Dutoit, and Zubin Mehta.

In January 2009 Yuja Wang became an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon recording artist. Her debut album, Sonatas & Etudes, prompted Gramophone to name her as its 2009 Young Artist of the Year. Her 2011 release of Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Claudio Abbado was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category. Subsequent releases for the yellow label include Fantasia, an album of encore pieces by Albéniz, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin, and others; a live recording of Prokofiev's Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and an acclaimed coupling of Ravel's two piano concertos with Fauré's Ballade, recorded with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and Lionel Bringuier. Reviewers around the world have documented the full range of Wang's work, capturing the essence of her musicianship and observing the development of an artist blessed with consummate technical prowess, an inexhaustible creative imagination, and an unmatched stamina.

She was recently described by the New York Times as "one of the best young pianists around" and hailed by the Sydney Morning Herald for her "blistering technique". In July 2015 the Los Angeles Times declared: "Hers is a nonchalant, brilliant keyboard virtuosity that would have made both Prokofiev (who was a great pianist) and even the fabled Horowitz jealous". The combination of critical acclaim, audience ovations, return engagements at leading international venues, and an exclusive recording relationship with Deutsche Grammophon confirm the 29-year old pianist's status as one of this century's most compelling artists.

The international reach and artistic breadth of Yuja Wang's 2016-2017 schedule reflects the strong demand for her work. She unveils her new season in the summer of 2016 with a run of recitals, chamber concerts and concerto performances at the Salzburg, Wolftrap, Tanglewood, Verbier and Baltic Sea festivals including collaborations with Matthias Goerne, Leonidas Kavakos, Lionel Bringuier, Gustavo Gimeno and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Following her initial NCPA residency concerts, Wang embarks on an extensive recital tour of China and Japan in September before traveling to the United States to open the Philadelphia Orchestra's season with three performances of Chopin's Piano Concerto No.2 in partnership with Yannick-Nézet-Séguin.

Yuja's way of making music connects with a strikingly broad audience. It appeals to everyone, from newcomers to the concert hall to devoted pianophiles, and has attracted an exceptionally youthful following. Her love for fashion, recently recognised by her induction into Giorgio Armani's Sì Women's Circle, has also contributed to the popular appeal of an artist who is armed with the ability to challenge convention and win fresh converts to classical music. She is set to broaden her audience throughout the 2016-2017 season, not least through her term as Artist-in-Residence at China's National Centre for the Performing Arts as well as the Konserthuset in Stockholm. The Beijing-born pianist returns to her home city in August for the first of six specially curated concerts at the NCPA, where she will explore programmes of Romantic and 20th-century repertoire in solo, chamber, and orchestral concerts. Her time in Stockholm will be filled by chamber music with Leonidas Kavakos, Bartok with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Maestro Sakari Oramo as well as a recital programme.

Other bold highlights of Yuja Wang's 2016-2017 season include a nine-concert Asian tour with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas; performances of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda at New York's Lincoln Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and an extensive spring tour of Europe with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Antonio Pappano. In December she joins forces with percussionist Martin Grubinger for concerts in Vienna, Munich, Zurich, and Tel Aviv, and marks the new year with extensive recital tours of Europe and the United States with violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Wang will also undertake a major solo European recital tour in March and April, complete with concerts in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna and London, and many other cities.

Over the next season's course, Yuja will explore everything from chamber works by Beethoven and Brahms to concertos by Chopin and Shostakovich. Her profound affinity for Bartók falls under the spotlight when she explores each of the composer's three piano concertos, with performances of individual works in Beijing, Cleveland, Dallas, Guangzhou, Stockholm, Taiwan and Toronto, and of the complete set with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel over two consecutive weeks in May and June.

Source: yujawang.com

Photo by Norbert Kniat













Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major

The piano was Ravel's favorite instrument, and of his two extraordinary concertos, the Piano Concerto in G major was, in his opinion, "more Ravelian". Indeed, the two works are profoundly different, but without being, as Vladimir Jankélévitch observed in his book about the composer, more (or less) Ravelian than the other. Nevertheless, Ravel's opinion should not be dismissed, for it reflects his personal predilection, and, as any listener can tell, the work literally overflows with exuberance, delight, and verve. The Concerto may have been conceived in 1928, the year Ravel received his honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford. While some commentators have found the source of this Concerto in Ravel's Rhapsody on Basque themes Zazpiak bat, a project which remained unfinished, Robert de Fragny remembered that the composer had remarked that the dazzling opening theme came to him during a train ride from Oxford to London in 1928. In 1929, despite failing health, Ravel talked about a world tour on which he would perform his Concerto. While the world tour never materialized, the composer's life was sufficiently hectic, as he received a commission to compose another piano concerto, the Piano Concerto in D major (for the left hand).

Completed in November 1931, the concerto was premiered in January 1932, in a legendary performance by Marguerite Long. The sensations that this work conjures up, right from the beginning, are brightness and boundless energy. Opening with a whiplash sound, the first movement, Allegramente, proceeds rapidly, from an initial burst of light, composed of a lively piccolo tune threading through crystalline, harp-like piano figuration, to the incisive ending, traversing the many truly magical, even mysterious, moments of repose, when the piano indulges in dreamy, languid soliloquies. Delighting in the piano's expressive potential, Ravel fully employs the instrument's sonority, weaving, for example, a trill into a melody. The piano's rich and subtle discourse is magnificently matched by the orchestra, which, appearing in many guises, mimics and complements the piano, reinforcing the sensation of relentless energy by sharp, metallic, insistent statements by the trumpet. Ravel's splendid orchestration, which tempts the listener to experience this work as a brilliant, and almost self-sufficient, demonstration of sheer musical color, reflects the composer's interest in jazz, evidenced by trombone glissandi and similar effects. However, the jazz elements are profoundly Ravelian, which means that they hardly strike the listener as out of context. The remarkable second movement introduces an introspective, soulful atmosphere, seemingly quite remote from the bustle of the previous movement. A simply stated solo piano theme, of a disarming yet profoundly soulful simplicity, suggesting, perhaps, the image of a solitary promenade in the moonlight, yields to a timeless flute theme which expresses feelings of longing, sorrow, and subdued, yet clearly stated, passion. The final movement, as the piano wends its way through a series of shrieks and wails, executed by woodwind and brass instruments, affects the listener as a mounting wave of sound. A sudden, abrupt exclamation concludes the seductive cacophony of this climactic movement, and the listener experiences a desire to revisit the enchanted landscape of a musical work whose limpid formal structure contains a seemingly boundless world – without a trace of creative fatigue or ambivalence – of elegantly turned musical ideas.

Source: Zoran Minderovic (allmusic.com)



Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major 

Between 1929 and 1931, Ravel, despite his failing health, worked feverishly, his imagination as powerful as ever. Among the works completed during this period are the two piano concertos: this extraordinary work and the scintillating Piano Concerto in G major. This concerto was commissioned by the prominent Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, brother of the celebrated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm due to a wound sustained in World War I. It is indeed a tragic irony that Ravel, who also served his country in World War I, and Wittgenstein were enemies in this terrible conflict. Nevertheless, Ravel, fascinated by the technical challenge of composing a concerto for the left hand, approached the project with immense interest and enthusiasm. In addition, Ravel admired Wittgenstein's determination to continue his career as a concert pianist.

Piano works for the left hand were certainly not a novelty, as compositions by Scriabin, Alkan, and Liapunov attest, but Ravel wanted to create a unique work which would not merely demonstrate how a pianist can compensate for a physical handicap. He wished to compose a work which would stand out as a unique piano concerto. The outcome of Ravel's efforts is one of the great piano concertos of the twentieth century. However, the Concerto, completed in October or November of 1931, failed to please Wittgenstein, who only gradually developed an appreciation for Ravel's work. Furthermore, when the Austrian pianist premiered the work in Vienna, in 1932, he took certain liberties with the score, to the composer's extreme consternation. Despite Ravel's frustration, he conducted the orchestra in Wittgenstein's Paris premiere of the Concerto in 1933. Because Wittgenstein had sole rights on the work for six years, Ravel had to wait until 1937 to hear a performance (by Jacques Février), which satisfied him.

The work, which is really in one movement, begins deep in the bass register, with the contrabassoon, along with the basses, presenting a subdued theme, which elicits a mournful response from the horns. The initial mournful mood is gradually, almost imperceptibly, transformed into an insistent, somewhat manic, musical idea. The piano enters with a simple statement, creating pentatonic resonances, which disappear, but remain in the background. As the initial somber atmosphere lifts, the piano gradually establishes a mood of exquisite lyricism, which pervades the middle section. Ravel's writing is so subtle and technically ingenious that the listener hears a gentle melody with a hypnotically diaphanous, but seemingly elaborate, accompaniment; it is easy to forget that one hand does all the playing. The energy behind the third section, in which the piano engages the orchestra, often mimicking particular instrumental sonorities, profoundly differs from the wave-like, fluid, ascending motion of the Concerto in G major; here, the energy is discontinuous, manifesting itself in obstinate, repetitive figurations and phrases which, if only for brief moments, conjure up the spirit of Boléro. At the same time, Ravel devotes truly marvelous pages to the piano, particularly in the cadenza-like part of the final section, in which the left hand leads an engaging and richly developed melody into a glowing orchestral finale.

Source: Zoran Minderovic (allmusic.com)



Gabriel Fauré: Ballade in F Sharp major

One of Fauré's greatest works is the Ballade, Op.19, which exemplifies the trademark arpeggiations and passagework that form a pillar of Fauré's style. Liszt supposedly declared the piece to be unplayable. Originally composed for solo piano, the Ballade also exists in a version for piano and orchestra which occasionally receives performance. The opus number places it in his early compositional period, which is marked by melodic ideas of disarming freshness framed by a rich harmonic language.

It is especially this harmonic language which identifies Fauré's music, and which eludes analysis. Throughout his life, Fauré explored ever more remote regions of harmony along some secret path that he discovered early on. An effective composer creates expectations in the listener and then deviates from them; through some miracle of chromatic alterations, voice leading, or imagination, Fauré always delivers something better than could be expected. Repeated hearings don't seem to diminish the effect of these unanticipated delights.

The Ballade also shows an advanced grasp of structure. A long opening section serves as an introduction to the first theme, in 4/4, followed by the second theme, also in 4/4, and finally both themes combined in 6/8, with thematic transitional material joining the sections. Such stability and clarity of form remains a feature in all of Fauré's piano works.

But the important point is the content of the form. As common wisdom allows, here we find intimacy, delicacy, gentility, understatement, and dreaminess. What is missing from the description is the soaring earnestness, the urgent climaxes, the passion. Coursing through the refined expression and the elevated vocabulary is an emotional power that comes straight from the heart.

Source: Jeffrey Chappell, Piano & Keyboard Magazine, May/June 1995














Μωρίς Ραβέλ: Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο σε Σολ μείζονα

Τα Κοντσέρτα για πιάνο (1929-1931) του Μωρίς Ραβέλ αποτελούν εξαίσιες εμπνεύσεις και διαμάντια του πιανιστικού ρεπερτορίου. O Guy Lelong αναφέρει ότι αν και είχαν γραφτεί πάνω κάτω την ίδια εποχή, το Κοντσέρτο για το αριστερό χέρι εμφανίζεται πιο μοντέρνο συγκριτικά με το Κοντσέρτο σε Σολ. Όντως, το δεύτερο χαρακτηρίζεται από καθαρή νεοκλασική λογική και δομή συντηρητική. Αρχικά ο συνθέτης στόχευε να συνθέσει μια βασκική εικόνα, μια ραψωδία όπου την κεντρική θέση θα έπαιρνε το φολκλόρ. Η παραδοχή ότι σκεφτόταν να γράψει στο στυλ ενός divertimento του Μότσαρτ δικαιολογεί κάπως τον τρόπο με τον οποίο συνέθεσε το "Adagio" του έργου. Τελικώς έχτισε σταθερά ένα κοντσέρτο σε τρία μέρη, ένα δυναμικό πρώτο, ένα τρυφερό δεύτερο κι ένα μοντέρνο, αστραφτερό τρίτο. Η βαθιά επιθυμία του να είναι ο ίδιος ερμηνευτής της πρώτης εκτέλεσης δεν πραγματοποιήθηκε, εξαιτίας των προβλημάτων υγείας που αντιμετώπιζε τότε. Το Κοντσέρτο σε Σολ μείζονα παρουσιάστηκε για πρώτη φορά από τη Γαλλίδα πιανίστρια Marguerite Long (1874-1966) τον Ιανουάριο του 1932 στη Salle Playel στο Παρίσι με την Ορχήστρα Lamoureux, υπό τη διεύθυνση του συνθέτη. Με τους ίδιους συντελεστές πραγματοποιήθηκε η πρώτη ηχογράφηση τρεις μήνες μετά.


Πηγή: Έφη Αγραφιώτη




Μωρίς Ραβέλ: Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο (αριστερό χέρι) σε Ρε μείζονα


Ο Αυστριακός πιανίστας Πωλ Βιτγκενστάιν (1887-1961) υπήρξε γόνος μιας πολύ πλούσιας οικογένειας με πάθος για τη μουσική. Με το ξέσπασμα του Α' Παγκοσμίου πολέμου ο Βιτγκενστάιν κατατάχθηκε στον αυστριακό στρατό και λίγους μήνες αργότερα τραυματίστηκε από σφαίρα στον αγκώνα, με αποτέλεσμα το δεξί του χέρι να ακρωτηριαστεί.

Αποφασισμένος όμως να μην εγκαταλείψει την πιανιστική του καριέρα, εκμεταλλεύτηκε την περιουσία του και ζήτησε από σημαίνοντες συνθέτες της εποχής να γράψουν για εκείνον έργα για αριστερό χέρι. Έτσι, προέκυψαν μεταξύ άλλων έργα για αριστερό χέρι και ορχήστρα των Ρίχαρντ Στράους, Έριχ Βόλφγκανγκ Κόρνγκολντ, Μπέντζαμιν Μπρίτεν, Πάουλ Χίντεμιτ κ.ά. Ο Βιτγκενστάιν απηύθυνε ανάλογο αίτημα και στον Μωρίς Ραβέλ, ο οποίος εκείνη την εποχή δούλευε πάνω στο κοντσέρτο για πιάνο σε Σολ μείζονα.

Ο ίδιος ο συνθέτης αναγνώρισε τις έντονες επιρροές του, εν προκειμένω από την τζαζ, όπως επίσης και τη συνειδητή του προσπάθεια να δώσει την αίσθηση ότι ο πιανίστας παίζει και με τα δύο χέρια, γεγονός που καθιστά την πιανιστική γραφή εξαιρετικά πυκνή και δεξιοτεχνική. Το έργο είναι αναμφίβολα ένα από τα πιο δραματικά του Ραβέλ, ενώ η σκοτεινή του ατμόσφαιρα έχει εκληφθεί από ορισμένους αναλυτές ως ένα έμμεσο σχόλιο του συνθέτη για την τραγικότητα του Α' Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου.

Lionel Bringuier. Photo by Paolo Dutto













More photos / Περισσότερες φωτογραφίες


See also / Δείτε επίσης

Béla Bartók: Piano Concerto No.1 in A major – Yuja Wang, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor | Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor – Yuja Wang, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel (Audio video & Download 96kHz/24bit)

George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue – Yuja Wang, Camerata Salzburg, Lionel Bringuier

Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major – Yuja Wang, Camerata Salzburg, Lionel Bringuier

George Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F major | Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No.5 in D minor – Yuja Wang, London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor – Yuja Wang, Verbier Festival Orchestra, Yuri Termikanov (HD 1080p)

Yuja Wang and the Art of Performance

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor – Yuja Wang, Berliner Philharmoniker, Paavo Järvi

Yuja Wang plays Robert Schumann, Maurice Ravel and Ludwig van Beethoven at Verbier Festival 2016


Yuja Wang, the pianist who will not go quietly


Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Yuja Wang, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Claudio Abbado


Leonidas Kavakos, violin & Yuja Wang, piano

Johannes Brahms: The Violin Sonatas – Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang (Audio video)

Johannes Brahms: Sonata for piano and violin No.2 in A major – Yuja Wang, Leonidas Kavakos

Maurice Ravel: Sonata for violin and piano No.1 in A minor – Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang


Ottorino Respighi: Violin Sonata in B minor – Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang


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