Fantasia: Yuja Wang

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov; Scarlatti; Gluck; Albéniz; Saint-Saëns/Liszt/Horowitz; Strauss/Cziffra; Chopin
WORKS: Encores; Sonata in G; Mélodie de Gluck; Triana; Danse Macabre; Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka; Valse, etc


For Yuja Wang, an encore is ‘a little moment of tenderness from the heart’. And that is how we should approach this compilation of miniatures. She says she almost called it ‘My Heroes’, since Horowitz, Cziffra and some of the other arrangers of these pieces all have talismanic significance. But she likes the Fantasia title; it evokes Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – here in the Victor Staub arrangement – and the Disney film, on which she first encountered classical music. Her aim each time is to ‘create a vignette of a memory, or a hope… like a haiku’.

She has succeeded brilliantly. No point trying to fault anything: the lightness and flexibility of her touch takes the breath away, and her sound is at every moment transparently controlled, each piece displaying insight and affection. While Scarlatti and Gluck emerge with feminine daintiness, Albéniz comes with a touch of velvet-clad steel, Schubert-Liszt with restrained ardour, and Bizet-Horowitz with volcanic power; her Chopin is exquisitely nuanced. She really gets inside the soul of Rachmaninov, and she renders the Scriabin pieces with smoky suggestiveness. Given that these bonnes bouches were never designed to be consumed in bulk, this young virtuoso has pulled off a remarkable feat.

Where next? Yuja professes to be ‘too scared’ of Bach for now, and no shame in that, but she is about to add Beethoven to her repertoire.That presents a different test.


Michael Church