Piano Music: Poems Waltzes D
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Numbered among the musical elect of her generation, the multi-award-winning Xiayin Wang presents a recital of piano music that virtually spans Scriabin' career. The mysterious impressionism of Vers la flamme builds to an exhilarating intensity that i
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Scriabin's piano music more often than not is fiendishly difficult to bring off--on this disc represented by the Polonaise, Fantaisie and Vers la flamme. It is also uniquely beautiful, such as the Opp 32 & 41 Poems and the marvelous Op 38 Valse. Ms Wang deserves praise for her unusually well-chosen programme. As accurately pointed out by Scott Morrison, Wang is mostly successful in the more dreamy numbers--Opp 32/1, 41 & 52--whereas there is an overall shortage of adrenaline and forward momentum elsewhere. Moreover, she apparently struggles with the structure, myriad notes and multiple voices of the Polonaise (sample the middle G-flat-major section at 1:46) and above all the massive B-minor Fantaisie, where she gets more or less lost--and where her tone turns rather ugly in fortissimo passages (e.g. 5:02 and 8:27); that said, I have to give her the latter's second, D-major motif is gorgeously done (from 1:43).
Truly masterful Scriabin playing is hard to come by. Hamelin, Glemser and Sudbin come closest amongst modern pianists--whereas the names of Horowitz and Richter likely always will retain their place in collections of Scriabin's piano music. Lettberg's near-complete 8-disc survey is not quite great but good enough to be in a prominent position in any piano connoisseur's discography.
Even though I find it hard to appreciate Bryce Morrison's recent claim that 'Wang plays all this music with a special brilliance and refinement', I do agree there is enough perceptive playing here to make one 'look forward to hearing her in a wide range of repertoire'--although this is a far less auspicious 'debut' than that of the other Wang, forenamed Yuja. Alas, Xiayin Wang is not helped by the rather clangy engineering attained at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York.
REFERENCES: Lettberg, Fantaisie--Glemser, Valse--Sudbin, Vers la flamme--Horowitz
The best known piece here -- and appropriately suggested as a theme of the entire album by Wang, whose booklet notes are helpfully informative -- is 'Vers la flamme' ('Toward the Flame'). This late piece has all of Scriabin's mysticism, his unique harmonies, his suggestions of darkness and brilliant points of light, and the beating of moths' wings. And Wang plays it beautifully, capturing its evanescent moods.
The CD ends with the Deux Danses, Op. 73, which came immediately after 'Vers la flamme', and they continue the exaggerated stillness and periods of manic activity of that work. Again, Wang is at her best.
To sum up: Wang's performances are somewhat uneven. There are patches of awkwardness and seeming incomprehension in the more overtly dramatic, flamboyant pieces. But she seems to relate best to the more static, harmonically elliptical works and does them well. She is given true-to-life piano sound by her engineer/editor Leszek Maria Woycik.
To elaborate: Her interpretations of Scriabin's melodies are soothing and relaxing as background music, yet also sufficiently intricate and engaging to reward attentive listening when the mood strikes.