Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wu Di (semifinal recital)

An unusual program for Wu Di, and it paid off smashingly. She came out in a silver dress and played Clara Schumann's Mazurka from Soirees Musicales and then launched straight into Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze, playing it with far more personality and rhythm than Amy Yang did in the prelims. The rhythmic element reminded us that these pieces are dances, after all, and gave each character piece its own character, teasing out the humor in No. 3, playing No. 2 with melting lyricism, and bringing the Sturm und Drang in No. 4.

Then she played Nikolai Medtner's Four Fairy Tales Op. 20 and made an excellent case that this contemporary of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev deserves to be considered on an equal footing with them. The pieces were played with limpid beauty and fire. Daron Hagen's Piano Suite came off better in the fast outer movements than Vacatello's, though not as good in the lyrical inner movements. That's a wash, then.

She finished with Moritz Moszkowski's Caprice Espagnol, and it was the first thing I've heard in this competition that made me grin like an idiot. That's what showpieces are for, and she took this out-of-the-way piece and made it electrifying. Are we looking at the next gold medalist?

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