Joyce Yang – Wild Dreams = RACHMANINOFF: Dreams; Vocalise; Piano Sonata No. 2; HINDEMITH: In einer Nacht – excerpts; BARTOK: Out of Doors Suite; SCHUMANN: Fantasiestuecke – Joyce Yang, piano – Avie

Joyce Yang – Wild Dreams = RACHMANINOFF: Dreams, Op. 38, No. 5; Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14; Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36; HINDEMITH: In einer Nacht, Op. 15 – excerpts; BARTOK: Out of Doors Suite; SCHUMANN: Fantasiestuecke, Op. 12 – Joyce Yang, piano – Avie AV2261, 78:46 (3-11-14) [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

Joyce Yang inscribed this fine ensemble of ‘dreamscapes’ at The Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, SUNY, 25-28 July 2013. An admirer of pianist-arranger Earl Wild (1915-2010), Ms. Yang opens with two of his arrangements from Sergei Rachmaninoff, his song Dreams (after the poet Sologub) and the ubiquitous 1912 Vocalise, here given a piano realization that climaxes in astounding colors.  Hindemith composed a series of fourteen miniatures in 1919 he called Traume und Erlebnisse, “Dreams and Experiences.” Yang selects five of these brief pieces, many of which betray the composer’s “academic” penchant for severe form and musical allusion.  “Evil Dream” opens with single tones in eerie sequence and quotes a tune from Verdi’s Rigoletto. The No. 14 proffers a slow double fugue. “Weariness” and the No.  2 marked Sehr langsam do cast a hazy character. The dazzling Sehr lebhaft, flimmernd plays like a wrist-testing etude. The last two pieces demand “nervousness” and “extreme agility.”

The sudden transition to Bartok’s 1926 Out of Doors Suite and its opening “With Drums and Pipes” certainly jars our sensibilities. Percussively asymmetrical and shifting in its Magyar rhythms, the piece conveys the volatility and bravura of the composer’s nature. The Barcarolla and Musettes play with the keyboard’s capacity for haunted or folk sonorities in the manner of Debussy. But The Night Music clearly demonstrates Yang’s thematic rubric, arresting our keen attention with left hand tone clusters and melodic “children of the night” whose combined choirs create an eerie chorale. The final entry, “The Chase,” has Bartok’s competing with both Paganini and Liszt for brilliant virtuosity in the form of a grueling etude that sounds like it is ready for orchestral accompaniment.

Again, a major shift in emotional color occurs at Des Abends from Robert Schumann’s Op. 12 Fantasiestuecke (1837),  a performance whose serene self-possession and invocation of Eusebius recalls my favorite version by Benno Moiseiwitsch. With Aufschung, Florestan makes his forceful presence known. Each of the ensuing six pieces bears the mark of Yang’s capacity for “Truth and Poetry,” but In der Nacht palpably carries her conviction that Romantic night dominates her imaginative landscape. Her potent realization of this episode warrants the price of admission. Do not discount her Warum? For lyric poetry and authentic sensibility. The devilish Traumes Wirren (“Whirl of Dreams”) still has Horowitz as its master, but Yang imbues the manic eddies with vigor and playful pomp. The finale, Ende vom Lied, enjoys Yang’s sense that Schumann has fashioned a maerchen, a legend-march in homage to E.T.A. Hoffmann and Schumann’s spiritual Davids-League.

Yang concludes with Rachmaninoff’s revised 1931 version of his B-flat Minor Sonata (1913), a piece he compared unfavorably with Chopin’s prototype in the same key. Yang plays the work for its strong affinity for Russian bells, alternated with melodic tissue – two interrelated themes –  highly syncopated and often introspective in the manner of an elongated prelude. Periodically, the material explodes with “symphonic” force, and we feel its kinship with the D Minor Concerto. Typically, the emotional content reverts to thoughts of mortality, highlighted by the Dies Irae motif. Yang achieves a lovely stasis in the opening measures of the Non allegro. Lento movement. Her diaphanous arpeggios will likely inspire an album of the 24 Preludes. Bur no less impressive, her big chords and parlando filigree convey a true Rachmaninoff acolyte’s sense of style. The Allegro molto hurtles forth in thorough sympathy with the Concerto No. 3, a flamboyant vehicle for bravura display and heroic gestures. Even in its scaled-down revision, the piece achieves a splendorous presentation from Yang, a true and gifted disciple.

—Gary Lemco

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