Dudamel, Wang and LA Phil team up for rich and sumptuous Romantic program

Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 11:45 am
Yuja Wang performed Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Monday night at Lincoln Center.

Yuja Wang performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Monday night at Lincoln Center.

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic alongside piano phenom Yuja Wang brought verve and consummate musicianship to Avery Fisher Hall Monday evening with a program of music by Daniel Bjarnason, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms.

Bjarnason, the Icelandic darling of Sigur Ros, Efterklang, and the classical world alike, effectively charmed Monday’s audience with his Blow bright, written just last year, and receiving its New York premiere.

The work is cinematic in scope. Part of Bjarnason’s concept was in recreating electronic effects, but Bjarnason’s work in electronic music also is evident in the range of colors he was able to procure from traditional orchestral instrumentation. The opening sounds from the percussion section were crystalline and metallic – a clockwork array of sounds that seemed to come straight from a sound effects library. But the mastery of the piece was in the movement from this opening machinery into lush string parts and a beautiful violin solo that emerged from the orchestra with a truly neat shadow of sound and fashioned reverb behind it. The piece seems to evolve with an imagined landscape, and despite its rhythmic modernity, ends up Romantic in sound and scale.

Yuja Wang never disappoints, but what came across Monday night during her performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is that her true prowess is not in her flawless technique. She makes the thorniest of passages seem tragically easy, but what’s more remarkable is that she can play a simple melody without any affectation, at a neutral dynamic level, and demand rapt attention. The opening melody of the concerto, a unison melancholic line, was soft, and utterly simple. She felt no need for rubato or unnecessary Romanticism. It was plainly stated, and it was gorgeous. Surprisingly, Wang knows when to be understated.

This concerto is notoriously difficult, but Wang has the uncanny ability to make everything seem relaxed. Even the quickest of passages were still delicately phrased. And Dudamel was right alongside her for the ride, never shying from a full orchestral sound that duly supported her.

The evening was rounded out with Brahms’ Second Symphony, led by Dudamel in a deeply rooted interpretation. The lower parts of the orchestra were often given full reign and the depth they created gave an embedded foundation for the entire piece.

Dudamel’s length of phrasing, structural vision and depth of sound were utterly Brahmsian. This was not a delicate Brahms bu the kind where the cellos at the opening of the second movement played with such a rich thickness and uniformity that the overtones rang freely. The orchestra was wholly in sync with each other, both emotionally and literally, through Dudamel’s unique capacity as both a leader and captivated observer/collaborator.

8 Responses to “Dudamel, Wang and LA Phil team up for rich and sumptuous Romantic program”

  1. Posted Mar 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm by Charles

    Excellent review of this concert!! I attended and was equally impressed by Yuja Wang’s intelligent interpretation; this is the first time I heard her perform. Dudamel never disappoints. Aside from the energy he brings to his music, Dudamel knows how to bring out all the many layered tones inherent in a Brahms symphony. Truly an amazing concert!

  2. Posted Mar 18, 2014 at 5:28 pm by Norm

    Ms. Vastek

    Great review. Through your account, I can almost experience the concert (which travel, time and monetary constraints all played a part in preventing my attendance). With regards to your statement on Yuja Wang’s ability to render the music in a fairly austere manner while retaining its beauty, I believe you hit the nail squarely on the head. Her playing is not about the luxuriant, indulgent cantabile tone and rubato typical of the old masters of the golden age of piano, but one that through its clarity and complete command of nuance allows the music to speak for itself.

  3. Posted Mar 18, 2014 at 6:27 pm by Arthur Stark

    Yuja is indeed musical poetry in motion. Her interpretation and representation of the musical score is flawless and impressive beyond words. Beauty personified!

  4. Posted Mar 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm by Scott Merrell

    While Yuja Wang’s technique is amzing, I did not feel that there was any real emotional connection to the Rach3. The tempos were rushed, for the most part. At times, she seemed to be racaing ahead of the orchestra. Some sections were played with great beauty, but overall, not a great performance for me. Nor was I all that impressed with the Brahms. I wished I had been at the Met to hear Wozzeck.

  5. Posted Mar 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm by Cap Blood

    The last ‘critique’ of Yuja, in opposition to the raves, is the dilemma she brings today; and the challenge of what or what not is veracious to the score, or simply cherished sense memory of olden days or personal expectation. I think Yuja’a clarity and subtlety did “allow the music to speak for itself” as was stated above-and that is what I like. Racing was no part of it-fast as she can be. A pianist like the young Trifinov would be more to Mr. Merrell’s taste-lots of superfluous color and somewhat self indulgent luxuriating over tempi. Surprisingly, that is more a Hollywood taste lushness one would have expected-but I think instead we got Rachmaninoff’s actual inner voicing and intentions. Mr. Merrell SHOULD have gone to Wozzeck-the actual human voices may have helped him make better “emotional contact”…
    Bravo Yuja and Dudamel

  6. Posted Mar 24, 2014 at 6:58 pm by WILLIAM SWEENEY


  7. Posted Mar 25, 2014 at 1:01 am by Daniela Yaakoby

    I have to admit…I love the Brilliant Performance of a Brilliant Pianist…I think that this Pianist has a Divine playing…the Muses blessed her…Daniela from Israel.

  8. Posted Mar 25, 2014 at 5:48 am by andrew mason

    Spot on Cap Blood. when Rachmaninoff heard Horowitz play the D Minor Op. 30 he said, “I did not think I would ever hear it played like this in my lifetime.” He might have said the same about Yuja’s performance.

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