Saturday 7 September 2019

Prom 63: A 'nice mountain to climb', Yuja Wang, Dresden Staatskapelle, Myung-Whun Chung at the BBC Proms

Prom 63 - Yuja Wang, Dresden Staatskapelle - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 63 - Yuja Wang, Dresden Staatskapelle - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D; Yuja Wang (piano), Dresden Staatskapelle, Myung-Whun Chung; BBC Proms
Reviewed by Colin Clarke on 6 September 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
A performance of utmost command from Yuja Wang in Rachmaninov with radiant Brahms from the Dresden visitors to the Proms

Prom 63 - Myung-Whun Chung, Dresden Staatskapelle - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 63 - Myung-Whun Chung, Dresden Staatskapelle
BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 63: The Dresden Staatskapelle and conductor Myung-Whun Chung in Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, with pianist Yuja Wang, and Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on 6 September 2019, reviewed for Planet Hugill by Colin Clarke

Yuja Wang describes Rachmaninov’ Third Piano Concerto, in a Radio Three interview, as a “nice mountain, one you want to climb.” Characteristically dressed to impress in a red, sparkly what I believe is known as a mermaid dress, one with quite a split in it, Wang gave a performance of the utmost command. This was intelligent, thought-through playing, textures perfectly considered, chords perfectly placed. Wang has a lovely sound, clear but velvety at the same time; the orchestra balanced that with its inherent warmth (including subtle vibrato from the first horn in the first half). But the intelligence of her reading was what shone, her awareness not only of textural clarity in her own contribution, but her awareness of interactions with orchestral soloists, also. Finding wit in the close of the first movement seemed entirely appropriate. Although hardly shying away from the grand Romantic gestures and the powerhouse virtuosity, it was in the quieter moments, with her unforced rubato and golden, singing cantabile, that Wang excelled.

Rapport with Myung-Whun Chung seemed complete, the orchestra’s creeping in with the gesture of the opening superbly subtle. Given their chance in the spotlight, the orchestra ensured that central Intermezzo soared yearningly in its extended orchestral opening; Wang’s response was revelatory, as she revelled in the textural complexity of her first entrance. Her articulation stunning, the flight episode effortlessly entered another world, re-entering the Dresden cushion of sound as easily as it had exited. The finale, too, held unexpected sides, not least the moments of mystery. Most of all there was a sense of organic growth, beautifully judged to negotiate often craggy terrain, to move us towards that edge-of-the-seat close. The reception was predictably ecstatic from the Prommers. Apparently Wang did not play an encore in the performance the evening before in Dublin, but here in London we were gifted not one but two, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, followed by an outrageously virtuoso, sometimes plain silly, sometimes wondrously subtle, Tea for Two.

Brahms is the life-blood of the Dresden orchestras. They clearly trust Chung, their Principal Guest Conductor, conducting from memory, and he trusts them – there did not seem to be anything remotely like an upbeat, or even much of a downbeat, to the opening, yet it was so perfectly together. Wind and horns were glorious. The long horn solo later in the movement mysteriously crumbled for a moment before restoring itself, a reminder that in amongst preternatural excellence, there is the human element; but how the bassoon and horn overlapped their quaver motif thereafter, completely seamlessly. Detail matters. Chung tracked the movement’s course brilliantly, fortes glowing, syncopations full of unrest. The 'Adagio non troppo' that follows, autumnally burnished, contained more of that unrest later; and how smooth the violins’ legato. Bernd Schober’s oboe was simply beautiful in the third movement, taken at a nice allegretto, with all the grazioso one could ask for. Contrasts of the finale’s various plateaux were marvellously honoured, eight Dresden double-basses pinning the sound down, the close a controlled, radiant crowning.

Prom 63 - Yuja Wang, Dresden Staatskapelle - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 63 - Yuja Wang, Dresden Staatskapelle - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Just one encore from the orchestra. More Brahms, the first, G minor Hungarian Dance, strings glowering, woodwind sparkling. Fabulous.
Reviewed by Colin Clarke

The concet is available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days.

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  1. Thank you for this review full of musical insight and knowledge!


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