Yang entered the stage wearing black, including a shiny black shirt with silver buttons down the front. He dove into the Scarlatti. His performance was impeccable--but nothing unusual so far.
Then he hit us with a profound interpretation of the Chopin B-flat Minor Sonata, the "Funeral March Sonata." Right from the start of the first movement his playing was engaging, precise, and contained great depth. His pedal use seemed superb. He was able to layer the sounds in a way that was interesting and well thought out.
While performing he is more active than many pianists, more Lang Lang than Pollini. He occasionally elevates himself off the stool when striking a heavy chord and contorts his face to match the expressions we would expect to encounter during evocative passages. For instance, he seemed to be almost crying during the striking moment in the third movement--the movement containing the famous funeral march--when the sweet, high legato melody enters. It's a heartbreaking moment and his facial expressions were fitting. This is a wonderful passage and I was really struck by Yang's playing at this point. The first time through the melody its beauty was just crushing. The second time through it seemed a bit of the hurt had gone away through the passage of time.
Then Yang performed Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7. And it was simply spectacular. Precise. Fluid. Motoric. This will no doubt be a key piece for his upcoming performance at the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, at which he has been selected to be one of the thirty participants. Unlike many performances of Prokofiev's piano pieces, Yang's interpretation was never sloppy.
After the intermission, Yang offered up a powerful interpretation of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. What is there to say about pianism of the highest order? With the exception of one very, very slight twang upon the release of a pedal, the performance of this piece seemed spotless. And it was powerful.
The audience was in good form. Minimal coughing. Deserved standing ovations after the Prokofiev and the Mussorgsky. It is clear that the musical cognoscenti are found in St. Paul, not Venice. Unfortunately, in contradistinction to the last recital I reviewed, Yang offered no encores.
Yang is very gifted. It will be interesting to see how he does at the upcoming Van Cliburn competition.