Di Wu, pianist, in recital by Gary R. Lemco

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Di Wu, pianist, in recital by Gary R. Lemco

Post by Lance » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:24 pm

Neither Diminutive Nor “Feminine”: Di Wu in Recital
By Gary Lemco

PIANIST DI WU appeared in recital at San Jose’s Le Petit Trianon Theatre, Sunday, April 22, 2012 under the aegis of the Steinway Society the Bay Area. With her single encore, the Horowitz staple, Schumann’s Traumerai from his Scenes of Childhood suite, Op. 15, Wu offered the Eusebius side of her otherwise inflamed persona, a magisterial, percussive, and aggressive poise that would not suggest her physical stature nor her gender, given the explosive fury she injected into the already bright Steinway instrument that illumined this afternoon’s program.

The Brahms F Minor Sonata, Op. 5 (1853) comprised entire first half of the program, a tumultuous work which takes its cues from the Schumann Fantasy, Op. 17 and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Wu made the opening movement consonant with the D Minor Piano Concerto for girth and mass, its “maestoso” element potent in huge gestures and spans of its initial subject, somewhat subdued by its excursions into A-flat major and D-flat Major, keys that likewise occupy the second movement. Wu can leap out like a tigress or Rilke’s panther, and she can project a miraculously diaphanous series of glissando runs, as required. Emotionally, her grasp of the first movement held together its sturm und drang sensibilities, nobly indebted to Schumann but syncopated clearly and faithful to the poised rhetoric Brahms projects in his devotion to classical forms.

The Andante espressivo, obligated to the poetry of Sternau as it is to Schumann, granted as much tenderness as the Allegro maestoso had bequeathed us aggression. The A-flat alternations with D-flat melded in subtle transition under Wu, cognizant of the natural musical periods setting off the harmonized colloquy. The Scherzo literally jumped out at us, in the original F Minor, fateful and decisive. On the repeat of the opening material after the relatively calm D-flat trio, however, Wu began to exhibit a tendency to speed up, eventually rendering the last movement into something like Schumann’s madcap Kreisleriana. The Intermezzo, however, had the drama of snare drums in its build up to the Finale, which cast the Steinway in brighter tones as it made its blazing way to F Major. At the mighty peroration and conclusion, we felt that Wu imparted much of the Romantic Agony upon and into her Brahms, given and natural and often bravura ethos of her approach.

Two works constituted the second half of Wu’s recital: Ravel’s set of Miroirs (1905), a suite of five pieces dedicated to famed musician contemporaries (the “Apaches”) of the composer. Wu’s flighty, mercurial Noctuelles (Night Moths) flashed and skittered in bright colors from an already over-brilliant Steinway instrument. If Oiseaux tristes (Sad Birds) occasionally intoned a phrase from Wagner’s Siegfried, the allusion may well have been intentional. Again, too much passion might invoke more of Daphne du Maurier than the forest at Fontainbleau. Gossamer runs, a Wu calling-card, pervaded the melancholy, virtuosic arabesques, making us wonder how Ms. Wu might play with Debussy’s elusive goldfish. Une Barque sur l’ocean seemed to me the least successful of the set: admittedly Wu’s favorite, she lingered too long upon the waves, and the watery ride lost its tautness and sagged a bit. But the Spanish toccata Alborada del gracioso enjoyed both feline staccati and dazzling repeated notes as well flexibility of rhythm. Finally, the La Valle des cloches, an exquisite study on degrees of pitch, intervals, and speed, all centered on the theme of Paris bells.

The Paraphrase on a Waltz from Gounod’s “Faust,” Act II, by Franz Liszt had the astounding effect of any of his Hungarian Rhapsodies. Pepper and paprika infused every measure of this superheated performance, again a trifle too fast at times to maintain a sensuality of which Wu remains quite capable. By the time we reached the monumental, concluding stretti, what might be construed as “kitchen sink music” that exacts every demonic string in Liszt’s harp, we had been convinced that a young but torrential virtuoso had visited our concert hall; and that, besides the sheer digital prowess Wu commands, we can honestly admit that this young girl knows something. ♫

Dr. Gary R. Lemco is contributes regularly to
Classical Music Guide. He resides in California.

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