Taming Prokofiev: The Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments on YouTube

Joshua Barone, The New York Times

Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto is so difficult that even the composer, a virtuoso, struggled to get through its premiere in 1913. The cadenza — more than three restless minutes of runs, tone clusters and devilishly wide-ranging arpeggios — is one of the most thrilling in the piano repertoire. The Mariinsky Orchestra, under the baton of Valery Gergiev, has performed the piece in New York twice recently: with Alexander Toradze at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016, and with Denis Matsuev at Carnegie Hall this week. Both were dissatisfying for different reasons. Mr. Toradze’s interpretation was spacious but severely under tempo, while Mr. Matsuev’s was dazzlingly fast, to the detriment of Prokofiev’s lyricism hiding under score’s chaotic surface. In this video of Yuja Wang playing the concerto with Paavo Järvi and the Berlin Philharmonic, you can hear the cadenza at its best: artfully pyrotechnic, suspenseful and awe-inspiring.