Pianist Shiran Wang displays passion and precision at Zankel Hall

Sat Mar 26, 2016 at 1:38 pm
Pianist Shiran Wang  performed a recital Friday night at Zankel Hall.

Pianist Shiran Wang performed a recital Friday night at Zankel Hall.

There’s something about the concert as a cultural event – not culture of the arts but the culture of geography – which can cast an altogether unusual light on a performance.

Especially in ethnically diverse New York, a concert can be a very particular point of pride, a chance to enrich the connection to the homeland, to instill a sense of pride in the young and, even an opportunity for selfies.

Such was the case with the wonderful concert the young and talented pianist Shiran Wang gave at Zankel Hall Friday night at Carnegie Hall, replete with outlets for expression of fandom and the occasional pop star moments.

Called the “Piano Princess,” Wang started teaching herself to play on a toy piano at age 3. By the time she was 5, she was taking lessons and had begun composing. Now, at age 26, she has released recordings of Bach and Shostakovich and is continuing her studies at the International Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy.

She took the Zankel Hall stage dressed in a floor-length, white gown with feathers across the hem. Wanmg played sitting straight at the Steinway, the motion often seeming to be from her shoulders out.

She opened with Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op 15, played in an exquisitely clear and measured, and it was a lovely way to begin. The 13 brief movements are, by design, childlike (the title translates as “scenes from childhood”) and the sentiments are direct and plain, moving from lullabies to brisk and playful songs. Wang played them with an assured determination, from crawl to strut and back again. Her audience seemed restless and unsure when to applaud, with enthusiastic midstream applause from one audience member.

From there, she moved on to Franck’s Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue, Op. 21, allowing her to find expressive gestures passing one after another, not in a manic way but in a way that was quite complex and suited her talents well. As with the Schumann, she moved between brief passages seamlessly, a stirring of emotions for which she was eminently present. The Franck was more flamboyant, however, giving her greater opportunity to display the technical chops that brought out those in the audience with a pride of place.

After the interval and a costume change, Wang bore into Liszt’s dramatic Ballade No. 2 in B minor. As beautifully as she played the first half, it was in the forceful lines of Liszt’s extended tone poem that she truly shined, commanding the keyboard as if it were trembling under her embrace.

Rachmaninoff’s Moments Musicaux, Op. 16, provided a nice if less compelling summing up of the expressiveness and pure keyboard technique she had already displayed and held the audience rapt. A noisy interruption from the sound system seemed to give her pause, but she recovered quite ably.

Wang played some seriously demanding piano music with passion and precision and with fans (who would line up for photos and autographs after the concert) in the palms of her hands. She encored with an arrangement of the Chinese folk song “Liuyang River,” putting a nice cap on the cultural pride that was richly displayed in the Carnegie basement Friday night.

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