By Lawrence Budmen

Once in a while an extraordinary talented artist comes along and sets the stage ablaze. The gifted young pianist Yuja Wang unleashed incendiary fireworks in gleaming performances of concertos by Ravel and Stravinsky at the New World Symphony’s season opening concert on October 18 at the Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach. 

A student of Gary Graffman, Wang possesses remarkable dexterity and the kind of flawless technical acumen that most young pianists can only dream of. Her big boned, no holds barred technique can meet any musical challenge. That alone would be impressive but Wang’s superb command of the keyboard is wedded to a searching, arresting musical personality. 

Ravel’s Concerto in D Major for Left Hand Piano, written in 1932 for pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during combat in World War I, can sound episodic and mundane in mediocre performances. Yuja Wang’s rendition was special indeed. She imbued the work with inventive modernity and virile power. Ravel’s music has never sounded closer in spirit to Stravinsky’s trail blazing scores of the same era.

Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra emerged as truly visionary. Wang perfectly contoured the score’s raucous, jazzy 1920’s sensibility with the composer’s quirky, acerbic harmonies and jagged rhythms.

New World artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas was on fire, leading energetic, snappy accompaniments. As an encore, Wang provided razzle dazzle virtuosity in the Russian Dance from Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Her incendiary pianistic fireworks recalled Vladimir Horowitz in his prime. Wang’s future career holds great promise. She is already a remarkable musician.

Throughout the evening, the New World fellows were in great form. Tilson Thomas launched the evening with a rousing traversal of the Entrance of Bacchus from Leo Delibes’ ballet Sylvia. The conductor evocatively captured the orchestral mist and sun of Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. Lustrous orchestral playing channeled these beguilingly impressionistic Latin miniatures.

Tilson Thomas vividly conveyed the voluptuous impetuosity of Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird. Silken strings and bright toned winds caressed the sensuous Lullaby while the brass had a field day in Infernal Dance of Kashchei. Tilson Thomas masterfully controlled the exquisite transition to the joyous finale, unleashing an exciting orchestral panoply of gorgeous sonority – a superb finale to an evening of high voltage music making. 


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