Yuja Wang’s performance at the New York Philharmonic Thursday showed that she has achieved yet a new level. Her prior outings with this great orchestra showed a mercurial side – her interpretations could be off putting, edgy and musically curious. Not so in her magical performance in Mozart’s 9th Piano Concerto in E-Flat major. Different, yes, but much in keeping with the overall scheme of the concerto. In the first movement her playing was liquid, not at all flashy and not percussive. She played as a member of the orchestra, led here by Charles Dutoit - her playing meshed with the orchestra seamlessly. The cadenzas were studied, controlled and totally in keeping with the concerto’s mood. The slow movement was almost spiritual in the respect she gave to her playing every nuance. The final movement achieved an effortless presto, her fingers floating over the keyboard producing nuances, dynamic control, phrasing as if this were just a morning walk through enchantment and not the breathtaking experience she was giving the audience.
At 29, Yuja Wang has matured. The audience begged for an encore and she gave one that showed speed, dexterity and amazing control.
The balance of the program was a Roman orgy of sorts – Respighi’s three pieces on Rome: Roman Festivals (1928), Fountains (1915-16) and Pines (1923-24) all played together in a musical splash of giant proportions. The stage was a crowd of musicians including nine percussionists and ten base. Brass were stationed in the second tier and in balconies over the stage. The sound was thunderous. It was also overly long. Respighi’s vocabulary can be wearing. Pines was the most interesting, but by then we had lost interest. It was the memory of the Mozart that we walked away with.