One thing is for certain: Yuja Wang played con moto on Saturday evening. Literally. The music notwithstanding (and it was phenomenal), just watching Ms. Wang play was a sight to behold. Her performance rendered one of life’s meta-moments, during which I could observe myself becoming enhanced by the music and the passion, and I intrinsically understood that something amazing was happening. The power that Ms. Wang rendered was great in its sheer magnitude—so much, in fact, that many of the orchestra members’ jaws hit the floor in awe, as well.
That said, it truly takes a brilliant talent to take on Sergei Prokofiev’s discordant Piano Concerto No. 2. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced thus far at the symphony.. The chords were borderline strident, almost in an effort to incense the listener…just because. Juxtaposed with the comparatively tame work of Igor Stravinsky, whose Concerto in E-flat Major was “nice,” like a trinket one would find at Grandma’s house—very lovely to look at, but not useful for much beyond that. Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2, however, sounded tweaky (yes, it’s a word!), plucky and sour. He clearly intended to provoke emotion—any emotion, positive or otherwise—in his listeners. And I love that…anything that is intended to rile a response earns my respect. For her part, Ms. Wang embraced this concept and played it to the hilt, frantically pounding the chords that Prokofiev so deliberately penned with flair. She was perpetually in motion, impeccably channeling her muses like sugar to help us digest the prickly discord that Prokofiev had intended.
And we even received an encore.
Conversely, Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun) was languid and drowsy. It was the lazy, drunken faun’s version of Disney’s Fantasia…sans the insipid wizard and mouse, of course. After the symphony’s conclusion, I found Stephan Mallarmé’s poem, by which Debussy was inspired. (I have a nerdy penchant for French poetry—don’t hate.) It, too, was languorous and dozy, perfectly mirroring its musical counterpart. If I’m ever fortunate enough to hear this piece performed again, I would love to read Mallarmé’s poem while absorbing Debussy’s somnolent notes. It was akin to experiencing the synchronicity of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz. But sober.