The transformation is not just in the music but in the extraordinary skill displayed by Yuja Wang's performance - vastly improved over her previous award winning CD
Yuja Wang releases her second CD Transformation with music by Stravinsky, Scarlatti, Brahms and Ravel. I suppose everyone expects a second album to be better than the first, but after Yuja won a Grammy with Sonata & Etudes is that really a reasonable expectation? Well, when you hear how well she plays on Transformation, it is not only reasonable, it is amazing just how much she has grown as a pianist only a year on from her debut CD. She was good before but now Yuja is absolutely astounding.
Transformation is not only an exploration in the transformation of music through the 27 variations of Brahms "Variations on a theme by Paganini" op. 35 and Stravinsky's puppet Petruska but also the transformation of a young pianist on the road to greatness. Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of Ballet Russes, said of Ravel's La Valse "...it is not a ballet. It is the portrait of a ballet, the painting of a ballet." Yuja Wang deftly paints the scenes with her fingers dancing across the keys creating each of the intricate moves with the same skill of a world class ballet company. Under the hands of Yuja Wang the music becomes not just a colorful tableau, a picture of the action on stage, but captures the shifts and gliding motion of dancers - beautifully securing the subtleties of the orchestral sliding melody with endless grace.
There are two tracks on this CD by Scarlatti showing Yuja's depth of musical expression. It is one thing to fly across the keyboard in a flurry of notes as occasionally demanded in the Brahms or the Stravinsky pieces. But with Scarlatti there is a simple grace requiring an emotional journey for the performer. These sonatas by Scarlatti require individual expression of the interweaving lines of music - allowing each one to float up and out as it gains prominence, then drift into the background for other themes to take the foreground. Yuja breathes such delicacy of mood into the music where it stops being pianistic and just becomes an emotional journey "a little bit of sunshine between the big dark works" as Michael Church mentions in the liner notes.
If you enjoy piano music this is a CD not to be missed, but classical music lovers of all types will be amazed and the skill and beauty Yuja conveys with her playing. When Yuja Wang comes to town don't hesitate getting tickets to see her perform live. As a pianist she ranks among the best you will ever see as is evidenced by her latest album Transformation. With this album she has improved on last year's Grammy winning performance.