RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor – Yuja Wang, p./ Simon Bolivar Sym. Orch. of Venezuela/ Gustavo Dudamel – DGG

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor – Yuja Wang, piano/ Simon Bolivar Sym. Orch. of Venezuela/ Gustavo Dudamel – DGG B001902-02, 71:49 (10/3/13) *****:

Yuja Wang is a young Chinese pianist who is a keyboard dynamo and master musician way beyond her years. A phenomenon, she has studied with Gary Graffman at Curtis Institute where she graduated in 2008.

I heard her in concert in 2009 and was simply astounded at her technical brilliance and musical insight. She is a Deutsche Grammophon artist, slowly tackling the pianists’ basic library in a remarkable way, producing recordings which challenge the best of the last century.

This CD is the first concerto recording by the dynamic Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. Dudamel feels it is a landmark. DGG has provided exemplary sound and for a live recording it’s flamboyant as the music and the musicians.

Both concertos were written early in the 20th century, the Rachmaninoff in 1909 and the Prokofiev in 1912-13. Rachmaninoff’s concerto is definitely a product of the late Romantic era in music. Prokofiev’s concerto looks ahead in the 20th century. It was reconstructed and revised in 1923, following a fire which destroyed the original during the Russian revolution. Both concertos are considered ultra-complex and extremely difficult to play. Few pianists tackle these concertos, unless they are at the top of their musicianship.

Rachmaninoff’s concerto is certainly the better known and full of the typically rich and opulent melodies he was famous for, and for a period, damned for. The Prokofiev has its unique qualities, some wild, some “modern.” Both are examples of the best Russia had to offer at the time and have remained in the piano virtuoso’s repertory.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy this emotional and stirring music!

—Zan Furtwangler

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