Yuja Wang at the Ravinia Festival

Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

“The evening’s highlight, by far, arrived via Dudamel’s collaboration with pianist Yuja Wang in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Wang, an alumnus of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute who played the festival last summer, received a conquering hero’s welcome before she struck a note (and much more after). She deserved every bit of it.

Her approach to Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto (which, chronologically, is his second) was very nearly Mozartean, the pianist offering a crystalline touch, impeccable articulation and a generally scaled-down dynamic range. This was Beethoven as viewed more through the rococo past than the romantic future, Wang’s bejeweled tone and utter clarity of voicing welcome in most any repertoire, but particularly here.

Even in the mysterious development section of the first movement, in which Beethoven pushes out the definition of what a piano concerto can be, Wang offered a measured brand of romanticism. Or, to put it in other terms, she dispatched its barely whispered, otherworldly scales in aptly dreamy fashion, but within the performance practices of the period (as best we know them). Still, her pianissimo passages were daringly hushed, yet somehow managed to project. The extended cadenza offered welcome moments of keyboard bravura, Wang’s brisk delivery preventing it from distending the shape of the entire movement (as often is the case).”

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