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Dancing On Ivory

Gershwin / Bach / Grainger / Wang
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1404   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Earl WildFerruccio BusoniChristoph W. GluckSergei Rachmaninov,   ... 
Performer:  Jue Wang
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

An adventurous program which exposes a strong young pianist truly coming into his own.

In a way these romantic transcriptions make the perfect debut recital: they combine the familiar with the fresh, the new with the old, and the poetic with the virtuosic. Jue Wang gets an hour-long playground to showcase his expressive talents, technical wizardry and cleverness in building a compelling program. The CD fires on all cylinders.
 
Wang leads off with three light-hearted appetizers: Percy Grainger’s charming, very free “ramble” on “the Last Love-Duet in Der Rosenkavalier”, and then his similarly free ramble on Gershwin’s “Love Walked In”. Wang’s especially delightful in the jazzed-up Earl Wild
Read more étude on Gershwin’s “Embraceable You”, a performance simply dripping in charisma. Next we have a Serious Staple of the repertoire: Busoni’s transcription of the Bach chaconne ( that chaconne). It opens with the coldness of pealing bells, but the coldness is a careful choice, demonstrated by the way Wang shades every single subsequent variation, from aching loss to brutal power to (at 4:41) playing of speed and, somehow, frightened lightness. It’s a perfect balance which brought these ears great joy. The ending isn’t quite as devastating as some I’ve heard, but it’s certainly a noteworthy account, especially from a pianist this young (b. March 1984).
 
The perfect follow-up is a tender reading of a melody from Gluck’s Orpheus, in a plaintive transcription by Abram Chasins. Then we get the marvelous Zoltán Kocsis rendering of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. Although there are a few slight lapses in tonal control, Wang’s ability to turn a soft phrase ever softer at times left me sighing with contentment. That skill returns (after an Albéniz/Godowsky tango) in Godowsky’s heavily filigreed rendering of “The Swan”, where Wang makes sense of all the decorative runs while preserving the arc of the original melody. Still, this transcription has nothing on the tenderness of a reading by a good cellist.
 
We end with two tracks by Johann Strauss Jr.: the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, made into a madcap pianistic stomping-ground by the ultimate madcap pianistic stomper, Cziffra. There’s also the free fantasy on themes from On the Beautiful Blue Danube by a certain Adolf Schulz-Evler. Cziffra’s stomp is simply zany from beginning to end, the kind of thing you’d expect from Marc-André Hamelin, but Schulz-Evler is if anything even more audacious. The writing for the very highest keys at the start is so complex even Wang can’t hit all the notes. This last work is also present on Piers Lane’s Hyperion Helios (CDH55238) recital of ‘Virtuoso Strauss Transcriptions’, where even his formidable fingers take 40 more seconds than Wang to blitz through all the virtuoso passages. The list of pianists who have tackled this work is an honor-roll of virtuosi: Hamelin, Byron Janis, Josef Lhévinne, Jorge Bolet and Earl Wild. Lhévinne barreled through the piece at unbelievable speeds which Wang and Piers Lane don’t try to replicate. Wang’s fingers, not always as steady as Lane’s in the opening minute, opt for a middle ground between sheer virtuosity and soft-shoe treatment of the tunes. Hyperion refers to the transcriber not as Adolf but Andrei; he was born in Poland and taught by Carl Tausig in Germany.
 
Jue Wang is one to watch, then. He has the technique and is working on tenderness to match; he has the ability to dispatch any difficulty which we expect from any young pianist, and the ability to capture a work’s sensibility which we expect only from the best. There is room for growth here, both in the sonics, which accurately capture the homey acoustic of American conservatory recital halls, and in Wang’s occasional and very slight mishandling of the tenderest phrases (see “The Swan”). These are nitpicks, and the adventurousness of the program here is a very good sign indeed. I enjoyed this CD a great deal and am excited to see what this pianist will bring us next.
 
-- Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Virtuoso Etudes (7) after Gershwin: no 4, Embraceable you by Earl Wild
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950/1976; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 2 Minutes 48 Secs. 
2.
Chaconne for Piano in D minor (after Bach, BWV 1004), K B24 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1897 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 13 Minutes 30 Secs. 
3.
Orfeo ed Euridice: Dance of the Blessed Spirits by Christoph W. Gluck
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
4.
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 14, Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912-1915; Russia 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 5 Minutes 11 Secs. 
5.
Transcription of Albeniz's "Tango" by Leopold Godowsky
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Poland 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 3 Minutes 10 Secs. 
6.
Le Cygne for Piano [after Saint-Saëns] by Leopold Godowsky
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 2 Minutes 52 Secs. 
7.
Love Walked In, transcription for piano (after Gershwin) by Percy Aldridge Grainger
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1945 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 
8.
Ramble on Love, for piano (after the Love Duet from Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier;" FS 4) by Percy Aldridge Grainger
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: United Kingdom 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 5 Minutes 54 Secs. 
9.
Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, transcription for piano after Strauss by György Cziffra
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 4 Minutes 0 Secs. 
10.
Arabesques on J. Strauss II's "The Blue Danube Waltz," for piano by Adolf Schulz-Evler
Performer:  Jue Wang (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904 
Date of Recording: 06/2011 
Venue:  Greenfield Recital Hall, Manhattan Schoo 
Length: 10 Minutes 17 Secs. 

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