This is the second time I noticed the kid wiping off the piano keys with a cloth before he'd even started playing, and before anyone else had played before him. Why does he do that?
He started with Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Handel, and played it with a great deal of rhythm and alertness. I'm struck by the total lack 0f resemblance between this assured, strong-willed solo recitalist and the anonymous pianist he's turned into in a chamber or orchestral setting. Well, he gave a strong sense of each variation growing out of the original theme, and the different numbers seemed to progress logically one after the other, which is important when you're playing variations. Other than that, he also took pains to differentiate each number from the ones around it, and the final variation showed off his considerable skills as a contrapuntalist.
Unfortunately, Zhang's other recital item was Gaspard de la Nuit, and he prettified the piece, which is not only totally wrong, but was also a tactical error, since he can't match Bozhanov, Son, or Wu when it comes to beauty of tone. He had no sense of the piece's eroticism and violence. In "Ondine," he evoked the waters well enough but completely missed the alluring mermaid dragging sailors to their deaths. "Scarbo" was lacking the goblin's malevolent mischief. Without forward momentum, the work was reduced to an empty showpiece. All he had left was to show that he could handle the gigantic technical hurdles in the piece, and we already knew that he could. This was not a good selection for him.