Great pianists come in many varieties. Some performers have a special affinity with a specific composer, such as Richard Goode with Beethoven, or András Schiff and Bach. Others, like the wildly popular Lang Lang, carry the day with what often gets labeled as “charisma” but can mean many things according to the context. And some simply immerse themselves in the challenges that lie at the heart of what has become the core repertoire of the instrument in the modern era — not only the classical concertos and sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven, but also the huge and hugely popular romantic masterpieces of Rachmaninov and the more modern but just-as-demanding works of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Chopin. The latter course is the one charted by 26-year-old piano sensation Yuja Wang, who will step up to Campbell Hall for her third appearance in Santa Barbara this Monday.
In the highly competitive world of classical piano, the diminutive Wang swings like a heavyweight, having impressed audiences all over the world with her technical prowess and broad repertoire that includes many of the most difficult pieces ever written for the instrument. Her latest coup comes in the form of a recording, her fifth for the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label, which has her teamed with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela for two concerti, Rachmaninov No. 3 and Prokofiev No. 2. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Wang recorded both of these extremely demanding works on the same night at a concert in Caracas in February 2013. In a recent email, Wang was ecstatic about the experience. “I am over the moon about the recording. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. The energy and focus from those musicians and Gustavo Dudamel is extraordinary. It moved the ‘excitement’ bar higher than I’ve ever experienced,” she wrote.
Wang will reunite with Gustavo Dudamel December 19-22 for an unprecedented four-concert stand at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, but in the meantime, we’ve got her, and in recital, where she is electrifying. The program at Campbell Hall will include works by Chopin, Prokofiev, Kapustin, and Stravinsky. Of the “Three Movements from Petrushka” by Igor Stravinsky, a fiendishly difficult piece originally arranged by the composer for Arthur Rubinstein, Wang said she was “fascinated by the angularity of it and how he expanded the language of music and its relation to dance (my mom is a dancer). Genius like Stravinsky’s is utterly inspiring.”
Yuja Wang appears in recital at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Monday, October 14, at 8 p.m. Call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for tickets.