The 20-year-old Chinese-born pianist Wei Luo has been attending the Curtis Institute of Music since age 13, where she studies with Gary Graffman and Robert McDonald, and was the recipient of the 2018 Gilmore Young Artist Award. There’s no questioning her pianistic proficiency. Ravel’s La Valse, the opening salvo, abounds with dazzling contoured runs and glissandos, awesome octave passages, staggeringly precise leaping chords, and climaxes that are massive yet never overblown. In time one hopes that Luo will yield more to the music’s sultry undercurrents and sensuous harmonies.
She caresses the Shostakovich D major Prelude deliberately, and voices the briskly-paced fugue with pinpointed calibration, yet doesn’t project theRead more opus’ concluding Prelude and Fugue with the sustaining power and gravitas we hear from Konstantin Scherbakov or Jenny Lin. Although Luo is anything but fussy in the Haydn E-flat sonata’s outer movements, certain phrasings and dynamic gradations do sound a bit contrived and pre-planned. She begins the finale at a light and witty clip, yet her playing becomes slower and more generalized as the music progresses.
The same holds true for the Prokofiev Seventh first movement, but the pianist’s steady focus and ravishing legato compensate in the Andante coloroso. In the finale, Luo uncovers plenty of implicit melodic patterns and inner rhythms that prevent the motoric writing from sounding mechanical and undifferentiated. Lastly, Luo brings the little Shchedrin pieces to life with impressive independence between the hands. While it’s hard to say if, how, or why Luo stands out among hundreds of comparably talented young piano hopefuls jockeying for attention, her solo debut release certainly shows signs of promise. By the way, I love the booklet’s evocative abstract cover artwork.