Ya-Fei Chuang triumphs at Boston piano recital

14 February 2013

Mark DeVoto, musicologist and composer writing in The Boston Musical Intelligencer, reviews Ya-Fei Chuang’s outstanding recital at the Boston Conservatory:

Rachmaninoff’s Allegretto in E-flat Minor: Chuang handled the bristling difficulties of this piece as though they didn’t exist, all the while maintaining a smooth lyrical cantabile.

Chopin’s B Minor Sonata, Op. 58: Chuang’s superb control and fine expression made it certain that we knew where we were at every moment.

The Scherzo movement: Chuang moved effortlessly from this to the ineffable sadness of the slow movement in B major, and I have rarely heard such sensitive control of pianissimo as she demonstrated in this piece that almost never rises above a hushed level.

The famous Presto non tanto finale: Chuang made sure that the rhythm breathed with energy at every point, instead of racing breathlessly as though nothing else mattered, and this made the climactic moments of the last two pages all the more confident. This triumphant performance was one more testimony, to one who hardly needed convincing, that Ya-Fei Chuang carries Chopin’s banner today equally with the best of those whose names are more world-famous — I think of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Garrick Ohlsson, and Idil Biret.

Schubert’s Moment Musicaux: Chuang did all four of the pieces full justice, reminding me of Schnabel’s recording that I remembered so well from decades ago.

Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture: seemingly impossible to play because of the challenge to the performer’s endurance but it didn’t faze Chuang in the least, and the entire audience rose in a cheer after the brilliant ending.

Mark DeVoto is an expert in Alban Berg, Ravel and Debussy. A graduate of Harvard College (1961) and Princeton (PhD, 1967), he has published extensively on these composers and many music subjects, most notably, harmony.

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