Half of pianist Yuja Wang’s recital at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Thursday night features works by Frederic Chopin. The reason, Wang says, is quite simple.
“Every artist will spend more time and energy in one period exploring a certain composer, and other composers in another period simply because we find one interesting at one point and another interesting at another point,” she explained via email from Budapest, Hungary.
“There’s nothing magical about it. Just like one week someone is reading Dostoyevsky because he/she found it interesting, and the next week reading Stephen King. As far as Chopin goes, and this recital, there are few composers who write so brilliantly for piano. The harmonic structure, the sense of texture is fascinating and one can spend years exploring the layers of his music. I’m attracted and stimulated by that.”
Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Nocturne No. 1 in C minor and Ballade No. 3 in A-flat major are three works on Wang’s recital presented by the Santa Fe Concert Association. The other three works, which were written by Russian composers, are Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in A Minor, Igor Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka and Nikolai Kapustin’s Variations for piano, Op. 41.
“The Kapustin is a work I heard a number of years ago and was taken by how he wrote for the piano to speak,” said Wang. “It’s really interesting to see how he handles the various voicings. Yes, it’s somewhat jazzy, somewhat romantic, but I prefer to not label music in that sense. To me it’s a piece I enjoy playing and a piece that fits well in my program.”
Kapustin (born in 1937) wrote Variations for piano in 1984. Early in his career he acquired a reputation as a jazz pianist, arranger and composer, although he had solid classical training. Kapustin has often used jazz idioms in his classical pieces. Among his works are 20 piano sonatas, six piano concerti and sets of piano variations and études.
Twenty-six-year-old Wang, who was born in Beijing, China, moved to the United States to study with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she graduated in 2008. Among her many awards and honors are the 2006 Gilmore Young Artist Award, the 2010 Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2011 Echo Klassik Young Artist of the Year award and Grammy nominations in 2009 and 2012.
When it comes to recordings, Wang’s musical interests are quite diverse. She has one album devoted to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto. No 2, another focusing on sonatas and études by Chopin, György Ligeti, Alexander Scriabin and Franz Liszt and two more that feature a potpourri of pieces by 19th- and 20th-century composers.
In addition to performing in Budapest and Santa Fe this season, Wang is a guest artist in concerts in Los Angeles, Boston, London and a number of cities throughout China.