“Janus” = BACH: 3 Movements from Partita in E Major; RACHMANINOV (arr. Wild): O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair; BARTOK: Sonata for Piano; SCHUMANN: Arabeske in C; CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1; PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 7 – Rajung Yang, p. – Blue Griffin

Janus” = BACH (arr. Rachmaninov): 3 Movements from Partita in E Major; RACHMANINOV (arr. Wild): O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair; BARTOK: Sonata for Piano; SCHUMANN: Arabeske in C Major, Op. 18; CHOPIN: Ballade No. 1 in g minor, Op. 23; PROKOFIEV: Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83 – Rajung Yang, piano – Blue Griffin BGR 305, 62:00 (5/5/15) [Distr. by Albany] ****:

This recital (rec. August 2012) extends the recorded legacy of Rajung Yang, currently serving on the piano faculty of the University of Idaho. The epithet “Janus” pays homage to her decision to include music that looks both forward and back in its respective, imaginative visions. Rachmaninov, for instance, absorbs the Bach solo violin polyphony into his layered three movements from the E Major Partita, the selected movements now constituting a minor sonata: Preludio, Gavotte, and Gigue. After the toccata-like opening movement, Yang indulges her own sense of rubato and breathed phrases to stretch the Baroque Gavotte into a romantic interlude. The sprightly Gigue dances in glistening figures produced by a bell-toned Steinway & Sons Model D captured by engineer Sergei Kvitko. Many us recall the master, Earl Wild himself, having rendered his transcription of the song, “O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair,” Op. 4, No. 4. In Wild’s realization and under Yang’s direction, the music proceeds in the manner of lyrical ballad, with declamatory and naturally liquid passages, illuminated by runs much in the Liszt tradition, ending in soft, resigned melancholy.

Yang alters the sonic scheme abruptly with the 1926 Sonata for Piano of Bela Bartok, rife with percussion, chromatic sixteenth notes, and idiosyncratic, Bulgarian rhythm.  Almost in consonance with cinema of the period, like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, an “industrial” motor element suffuses the opening Allegro moderato in the course of its second, sevenths, ninths, and tone clusters.  Yang tries to invoke the “night music” affect in the Sostenuto e pesante second movement. Her jabbed notes and stringent harmonies seem more appropriate, cinematically, to Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. If a punishing chromaticism marks the first two movements, the final Allegro molto reverts to a more classical diatonic syntax. Yang invests the Magyar elements with their biting, energetic due, her bravura and steely fingers in high dudgeon.

Again, the aural sensibility changes: the adjustment now floats in the serene aspect of Schumann’s “rebound” love-song to Clara Wieck, here dedicated to Frau Majorin Friederike Serre auf Maxen, to whom Schumann also dedicated his Op. 19 Flower-Piece.  Yang unfolds Florestan’s yearnings and declamations with ardent tugs and pulls at the tempo, with the middle of the rondo-form’s utterance having become more emphatic, perhaps a fantastical maerchen after Jean-Paul Richter.  The epilogue, pure Eusebius, implores Fathe Wieck to relent in his objections to the marriage of true minds.  We have in the Schumann some of Yang’s most persuasive pages, especially if we become devotees. Yang then joins a long procession of recent traversals of the Chopin 1836 G Minor Ballade; and here she applies the broad canvas. If we follow the Adam Mickiewicz (Konrad Wallenrod) program, we can literally reconstruct the story musically, and Yang devotes careful energy to the melodic (E-flat) and harmonic details, especially Neapolitan, delineating the narrative.  The potent keyboard writing, perhaps a kind of “Chopin Appassionata sonata,” easily suggests a sturm und drang echo in Chopin’s personal style.

Yang concludes her recital with a favorite of both Richter and Horowitz, the Prokofiev 1942 Seventh Sonata, the second of his so-called “War Sonatas.” Yang tempers the militant, percussive opening motif of the Allegro inquieto with a lyric sadness for the state of the composer’s world. True to form, Yang personalizes the second movement Andante caloroso, with its own ironical homage to a Schumann song, often in whirling, “fugitive visions.”  Sviatoslav Richter asserted that the last movement, Precipitato, means to express life- affirming forces after a reign of death.  Yang tackles its fierce percussion and jazzy syncopes with a decided abandon, so that the “life” force smolders no less than before.

—Gary Lemco

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