This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players
From the first bar, you know that this brilliant Chinese-American pianist is the business...she leads from the front throughout to exhilarating effect. If you do not have a recording of the Tchaikovsky, then this is up with the very best; likewise the Khachaturian. Paired together, it’s a no-brainer.
Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto No. 2 has never been as popular as his first, and listening to Peter Donohoe, Rudolf Barshai and the Bournemouth Symphony in the former makes such neglect seem almost criminal.
To begin with, it’s worth pointing out that the version played by Xiayin Wang – and by Donohoe and Hough – is the original one. The pianist, composer and conductor Alexander Siloti altered the Andante: in fact the violin and cello solos were removed altogether. The score he published in 1897 also included cuts and changes elsewhere. The Khachaturian concerto is another piece that’s been sidelined in recent years; ArkivMusic list just 15 versions in the current catalog.
The pianist Xiayin Wang, who is new to me, has done well in the concert hall. She certainly makes a good impression at the start of the Tchaikovsky; as for Oundjian, his progress may seem a little sedate after Barshai’s cracking pace. The advantage of a more leisurely approach is that the Scottish band's playing is far more secure than that of their English counterparts. As if that weren't praise enough, the piano is much better balanced and the overall sound - engineered by Ralph Couzens and Jonathan Cooper - is first class.
One has to marvel at Wang's exemplary technique, especially in the concerto's bravura sections; however, she's at her thoughtful, eloquent best in the quieter, more lyrical ones. The lovely, clear piano sound is an added attraction.
Maya Iwabuchi on violin and Aleksei Kiseliov on cello don't eclipse Barshai's illustrious pair; that said, they’re still pure of line and ravishing of tone. Indeed, this RSNO performance has an inner glow that’s most beguiling. Any caveats? Well, the narrative thread is a little hard to discern at times. Then again, it almost snaps in Barshai and Donohoe's wild, coruscating finale. The RSNO aren’t pushed quite so much, and that makes for an orderly yet satisfyingly propulsive sign-off. Both Donohoe and Hough are wonderfully compelling musicians, and their accounts of Tchaikovsky's Op. 44 are indispensable. I'd say Wang's performance is just as desirable; indeed, it’s sure to win her a raft of new admirers.
How does she fare in the Khachaturian, written for and premiered by the great Russian virtuoso Lev Oborin? Well, the start of the Allegro has plenty of brio and bite, but as before this pianist is at her most pliant and persuasive in the concerto's quieter passages. Don't be fooled though, for there's a surprising edge – an unrepentant glitter – to her playing in the extrovert ones that’s just riveting. Her articulation is remarkable and those glorious runs are simply breathtaking. The central movement – what dark, moody woodwinds at the outset – is perfectly poised, shape and momentum assured.
Oundjian and the RSNO deliver a big-boned finale, to which the soloist responds with playing of equal force and weight. That she does so without hiatus or hyperbole is proof of her sound technique and good judgment. Katin is not usurped, but this young pretender almost topples him from his throne. Incidentally, Xiayin Wang's account of this concerto comfortably outclasses that of Constantine Orbelian and Neeme Järvi, also on Chandos.
Xiayin Wang astounds at every turn, as does the recording; a terrific coupling, too.
– MusicWeb International (Dan Morgan)