MTT, New World shine in Dvorak and Bartok with Yuja Wang

By David Fleshler

Yuja Wang performed Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3 Friday night with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony.

Yuja Wang performed Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2 Friday night with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony.

The headliner for the New World Symphony’s concert Friday in Miami Beach was the celebrated young pianist Yuja Wang, back after opening the orchestra’s last season, this time to perform Bartók’s very difficult Piano Concerto No 2 .

But the most satisfying performance of the evening came after she left the stage of the Lincoln Theatre, when the orchestra under artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas played Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, in an interpretation that offered nothing unique but was simply an extremely well-played performance of a familiar work.

At 23, Wang is a already a star, with a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon and solo engagements with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and Boston Symphony. Born in Beijing and educated at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, she has a reputation for virtuoso playing and interpretative maturity.

Her performance of the Bartók concerto was clearly that of a terrific pianist, with an exceptional technique and a thundering tone. Although her performance was not note-perfect, particularly at the beginning, she clearly had no trouble with the rapid figures of the Presto and Allegro Molto, where Bartók calls on the pianist to hit the notes about as fast as humanly possible.

Oddly for a concerto performance, Wang used the sheet music, playing with a page-turner seated by her side. At times the notes come so fast that the page turner was constantly standing up and sitting down to turn the page at a quick nod from Wang, and this could not have contributed to her concentration on the performance. If she wasn’t comfortable enough to go without the printed notes in front of her, this may have accounted for a lack of driving force in her playing.

The orchestra handled its part well, although blasts from the brass section occasionally completely drowned out the piano. Particularly effective was the quiet, tension-filled opening of the second movement.

The concert opened with the orchestra’s conducting fellow, Teddy Abrams, leading the ensemble in Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1,  a vigorous, faintly sinister performance marred only by intonation problems in the cello in a sectional solo that went into the instrument’s upper register.

Michael Tilson Thomas led the New World in Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 Friday night at the Lincoln Theatre.

Michael Tilson Thomas led the New World in Dvořák''s Symphony No. 8 Friday night at the Lincoln Theatre.

Tilson Thomas conducted the Dvořák without a score and drew from the orchestra a performance of lyricism, grace and brilliant energy. Particularly striking was the transparency of the performance, a consequence partly of Dvořák’s orchestration but also of the precise, church-bell clarity of all sections in a work filled with exposed passages that come amid a welter of orchestral sound.

The Allegretto grazioso was darkly lyric, with delicate interplay between violins and winds. The cellos played almost all their exposed sectional solos with precision, although intonation problems appeared again in the last movement. Horns blasted out their rapid notes in the last movement. Trombones and trumpets played with precision and boldness. And particularly fine playing came from the winds in the second and last movements, with well-phrased, radiant-toned playing of their solos.

The New World Symphony repeats the program 7:30 Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lincoln Theatre in Miami Beach. Call 305-673-3331 or go to

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Sat Apr 17, 2010
at 2:20 pm
No Comments