I have listened to Yuja Wang’s Transformations album twice today. I don’t listen to a lot of solo piano music, but hearing Mitsuko Uchida’s Schumann CD a while back made me think. That one I bought primarily for the hidden track at the end, but I ended up liking the rest of it a great deal. And I also kept hearing great things about Wang, which is how I ended up with Transformations.
I know nothing about piano performance, but she’s got the sort of technique where you occasionally wonder if she doesn’t have an extra pair of hands. You can hear all these interesting shapes and spaces in how she interprets the music – precise, but exciting. (These seem to be my go-to words when I like something: you can tell exactly what the performer is doing and why they are doing it. There is no gap between intention and execution, and the effect is: YES. THAT.)
Two of the pieces, the Scarlatti sonatas, I have heard before (I have Igor Kipnis playing them on the harpsichord, and Michael Pletnev on the piano). I absorbed the harpsichord versions of these first, and sometimes they sound like different pieces played on a modern piano. Here, they are little transitions between Stravinsky and Brahms, and then between Brahms and Ravel at the end. Not filler, though – just something that operates in a different mode from the modern material.