Classical music

Review: Yuja Wang shines in Mozart, Hong Kong Philharmonic excels in Beethoven

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 June, 2015, 10:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 June, 2015, 10:14am

Pianist Yuja Wang shone in Mozart's Concerto No 9, but Beethoven was the real star of the evening.

The early Mozart concerto is light in texture, without the oomph to exploit Wang's full powers. It is among a number of Mozart's piano concertos premiered by women - in this case, his friend Louise Victoire Jenamy.

Wang played Mozart's disarmingly simple themes with a warm tone. The cadenza showed her control in effortless left-hand octaves, bright trills and feather-light scales. The andantino movement was played with velvet fingers. A falling interval in the low violins throbbed in the poetic, hushed atmosphere. The aria-like piano melody soared and hesitated like the voice of an actress doing tragedy. The final allegro was so fast, it almost blurred, but the perky accents and lively grace notes gave it shape. Wang played with artistry but failed to fully hold the listeners, who were waiting for fireworks. The encores took care of that.

A spellbinding rendition of Beethoven's Symphony No3, Eroica, quelled the coughing and chatting that had blemished the Mozart. From the first two gunshot chords, conductor Jaap van Zweden's authority was unmistakable. The details drew the first theme indelibly on the memory, and the whole structure flowed from there. The drama was powerful, with intense contrasts from held-by-a-thread soft to overwhelming tuttis. The cellos were particularly eloquent.

This was the piece in which Beethoven broadened his scope. Inspired initially by Napoleon, the music stretched to heroic lengths that must have seemed out of proportion to early listeners.

In the Marcia funèbre, the basses sounded like moaning ghosts. Oboist Michael Wilson contributed beautiful solos. In the Scherzo: allegro vivace, a trio of hunting horns was splendid, and the woodwinds were locked together in perfect intonation.

The rush of notes that open the last movement was fuzzy, but the ship soon righted itself and went on to a colourful, impetuous finish. 

Heroine: Yuja Wang Triptych 1 - Mozart, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Cultural Centre Concert Hall. Reviewed: June 13