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2015年6月17日 星期三

A night brimming with light and delight: Yuja Wang (一個洋溢著光華與歡愉的晚上:王羽佳)

Amongst the current crop of Chinese pianists on the international concert circuit, there is only one which fascinates me. It's a pianist who has got music in her soul, perhaps in her blood.  She immerses herself into whatever music she plays. She breathes music. She lives music. And she enjoys playing music although it may sometimes frighten her to go on stage. But once on stage, something magical happens. It's as if she has finally found herself again.  Somehow, all her fingers would instantly find the proper place to place themselves, with the right kind of force, the right kind of rhythm, the right kind of tonal quality, the right kind of texture, the right kind of inter-relations, the right kind of touch, the right kind of mood all by themselves. And perhaps for those very reasons, the music which surges from her fingers is imbued with her life and also the spirit of the composer into whose music she plunges herself, the result of long hours of pondering over it, digesting it, absorbing it, feeling it, imaginatively merging into it as if she were entering into the musical soul of the composer and thus infusing it with a new life, a new kind of vitality, a life in which it is no longer possible to tell which part of it belongs to the composer and which to her. She plays not merely intellectually, but emotionally, instinctually, almost viscerally.  She gives the score something its doesn't have, life. She is my favourite Yuja Wang.

Last night, I had the chance to listen to her again, not as a soloist in a concerto, but a soloist simpliciter. She plays what comes most naturally to her, her kind of music: romantic music. She plays music by two of my favorite composers: Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)  and Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), two musicians who write music fit only for heaven, each in their own way, the latter hugely influenced by the former. Indeed, Scriabin imagined himself a kind of messenger of God or even a species of god himself.  Wang plays with enthusiasm, with passion, with power, with poesy and with with soul. Perhaps she finds an affinity with the fire, the passion, the yearnings, and the longings and the characteristic abandon of the Slavs, Chopin himself being a Pole whom some regard as part of the Slavic races,  as is Scriabin, who is pure Russian. And she ends her official programme as she she begins it, with another Slav composer: the music of Balakiev.


What exactly did her formal programme consist of?
1.  Scriabin's Prelude for the left hand Op. 9. no. 1 which he wrote whilst suffering a right hand injury.
2. Scriabin's Prelude Op. 11 No. 8, another "dreamy" piece
3. Scriabin's Fantasie in B minor, Op. 28, one of his most popular pieces.
4. Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 3 Op. 58, a quiet, contemplative, lyrical piece, almost heavenly but which suddenly flares with an inexplicable burst of near barbarism in the last movement but which the brighter and poetic side finally manages to tamper, with the kind of flow which one can find only in his music. It's one of my favourites.
5. Chopin's Piano Sonata No.2 Op. 35, passionate forceful, massive, structured, flowing, light, gay, lyrical, reflective with the solemnity and darkness of the third movement  overcome in the final.
6. Scriabin's Piano Sonata No. 9, the Black Mass, a piece in which the composer says he feels close to "the Satanic".
7. Balaview's Islamey (1902 rev.)

From start to finish, she did not have to rely on a single score! She appeared in two stunning dresses, a white gown glittering with reflections before the intermission and a blue gown hung across her right shoulder but with a beautifully curved opening around the same side of her waist. It's obvious she doesn't engage in any kind of binge eating. And to reward us for supporting her, she gave us not one, not two not three but for encore pieces: all fast and some spiced with what sounds like improvised jazzy rhythms: Der Kontrabandiste, Tea for Two,Turkish March and Carmen Variations.. She plays Gerswin and listens to two of my favourite jazz pianists too: Art Tatum and Keith Jarrett.  It shows. She plays with abandon, yet it's not a totally unbridled abandon but an abandon which years of disciplined mastery of the keyboard has tampered so that the piano and the pianist has become one and the piano has become an extension of whatever or wherever her spirit may take her. It was an unmitigated joy to hear her play. I can't wait to hear her interpretation of Brahms, Debussy and Ravel on the 20th.