Gabriel Tanguay, Santa Barbara Independent
The best word to describe virtuoso Yuja Wang is fire. Delivering a passionate performance at the Granada last Monday accompanied by violinist Leonidas Kavakos, the evening showcased Wang’s spitfire talent and character. The pair kicked off the program with Leoš Janáček’s riveting Violin Sonata, full of fury and rage from both violin and piano, meshing together to create something beautifully raw. The first half concluded with Franz Schubert’s Fantasie in C Major for Violin and Piano, where several errors from the page-turner revealed Wang’s abilities to perform impeccably under significant pressure. Fortunately, Kavakos, like water to Wang’s fire, provided elegant balance to both the piece and the apparent tension.
The program’s second half came with a fresh page-turner and a striking costume change from Wang, who reestablished her Zen during Béla Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 1. The highlight of the evening was the sonata’s second movement, which included a pensive violin solo and frantic rhythms in the piano’s lowest range, ominous and foreboding as well as richly emotive and impressive. A smart pairing, Wang and Kavakos complemented each other exquisitely and reminded the audience that even professional musicians feel the pressures of performing, and do so with remarkable honesty.