Tom Strini

Impressive young pianist with the MSO

By - Oct 16th, 2009 04:26 pm
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Pianist Joyce Yang

Pianist Joyce Yang

Pianist Joyce Yang played the Russian folk tune at the outset of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 as if she were muttering it to herself, as if it were some private obsession. Edo de Waart and the MSO reinforced this impression, with an accompaniment that was urgent but hushed.

Thus began a reading, of a vastly difficult concerto, that had little to do with showy pianism and everything to do with drama. Once Yang and de Waart had established a sense of intense introspection, the plot of the first movement became one of breaking through a mental barrier and making a statement in the wider world. That happened, in thrilling and convincing fashion.

Such dramatic intelligence informed every bar of Yang and de Waart’s thinking and made the concerto an edge-of-the-seat experience. Yang’s excellent articulation, effortless speed, impressive power and perfectly targeted phrasing were lovely for their own sake, but they served a higher purpose. Yang knew where Rachmaninoff’s phrases and long melodies were going, and she knew where his paragraphs and chapters were going. The result was a concerto uncommonly strong, clear and powerful in its entirety.

The same composer’s Symphony No. 2 filled the rest of the program, heard at the Friday matinee at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall.

What a glorious piece this is, and how full of contrast. The overall impression is one of melodic and harmonic luxury, often of a nostalgic, autumnal cast. Rachmaninoff arranges these goodies as rewards. They are the light at the end of brooding, tolling music reminiscent heavy bells and all-night religious vigils. Alarm rhythms as insistent as Morse code bringing news of disaster open the second movement, and those rhythms  evolve into a cheery danced brightened by the ring of he glockenspiel.

De Waart understood and his players vividly delivered the characters and colors in Rachmaninoff’s score. De Waart went for strong, clear and often abrupt contrasts, which this music needs if it is to be legible. Like the concerto, the symphony read like a Romantic novel — a thrilling, fleet novel you can’t put down.

The MSO, de Waart and Yang will repeat this program at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17-18. For tickets, call the Marcus Center box office, (414) 273-7206. For more about Rachmaninoff and this program, click here.

Dear Readers: Please drop by UWM’s Kenilworth Building Saturday, Oct. 17, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The UWM Peck School of the Arts will be holding an open house between those hours. Lots will be going on in the building, a magnificent complex of studios and exhibition spaces. I’ll be there between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in Room 551, meeting and greeting and showing work by my wife, art professor Lee Ann Garrison. Do drop in and say hello.–Strini

Categories: Classical, Culture Desk

0 thoughts on “Review: Impressive young pianist with the MSO”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Tom…I made it to Yang’s concert yesterday, and left with tears in my eyes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Rebecca and Judith Anne, for commenting. — Tom

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