Last night, Yuja Wang played a recital in Carnegie Hall. The recital was more like an event. As the pianist took her bows after encores, everyone in the hall seemed to have his cellphone up, either photographing or videoing. Wang is a remarkable, exciting talent. She is also—may we be frank?—a beautiful woman.

You will want to know what she wore. (Who doesn’t?) She wore a gold sparkly number, long, without shoulders or back. That was for the first half of the recital. I may be wrong about the color, but I’m sure of the sparkles. For the second half, she came out in a hot-pink number, also long, but with a slit, showing a leg. The audience went, “Whoo!”

All right, some music. Wang began with Beethoven—his Piano Sonata No. 18 in E flat, Op. 31, No. 3. Wang was not at her best in the first movement, or throughout the sonata, for that matter. She was uncrisp. Figures were not articulated, in the best Yuja Wang style. She was guilty of some of her surface playing, slapping at the keyboard. Some of her rubato was cockamamie.

And yet, her talent will out. The first movement contains some playfulness, and Wang does, too—lots of it. After one playful instance, the critic sitting next to me literally LOL’d: laughed out loud. He did so approvingly.

Now and then, Wang fails to sing out. She is overly retiring, even mousey. She was this way in Beethoven’s minuet. In his finale, there were some weird accents—ill-judged, in my opinion—but the music had verve. And Wang had a long way to go, on this evening . . .

She next turned to Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano, Op. 25. This is the composer’s go at Bach. It has movements such as “Präludium,” “Gavotte,” and “Gigue.” Wang was reasonable in the suite, grasping the logic of it. She also contributed her limpidity, her laciness, her nimbleness. Schoenberg would have smiled, I believe. When Wang played the Gigue, I thought of some street slang: she was mad-virtuosic. Even while she was playing the blizzard of notes, she poked at the tablet, to turn the page.

All evening long, Wang had a computer tablet on her piano rack, providing the sheet music. I was surprised at the extent to which Wang relied on the sheet music—even in pieces very familiar to her.

Did I say “mad-virtuosic”? After the Schoenberg, Wang played two études of Ligeti: No. 6 (“Automne à Varsovie”) and No. 13 (“L’escalier du diable”). The virtuosity required for these pieces is stupendous. Wang has it, along with ample musical sense.

I spoke to a pianist at intermission. “Doesn’t she know these pieces are hard?” he said. I don’t think she does.

Yuja Wang began the second half of her recital with Scriabin. As Ligeti has been a good friend to her throughout her career, Scriabin has been a good friend. And she has been a good friend to them back. Last night, she played Scriabin’s Sonata No. 3, Op. 23. She has the fingers, yes. Can octaves be played legato? They can, from this woman. But also, she read Scriabin’s mind (a great artistic mind). She cooked up Romantic storms. She was poetically inward. She gave a superb reading of this outstanding sonata.

Then we had something Spanish: “Lavapiés,” from Albéniz’s Iberia, Book III. I said to myself, “No fair comparing to Alicia” (de Larrocha, the late, great Spaniard). At the beginning, Wang was surface and slappy. I don’t know why she gets into that mode. But she got out of it, and by the end of her Albéniz she was stylish and delightsome.

She closed her official program with Kapustin—two preludes by Nikolai Kapustin, that jazzy “Soviet,” as we used to say. I thought, “A Chinese pianist plays a ‘Soviet’ composer—and sounds utterly, wonderfully American.”

The encores kept coming, and coming. One lady in a pretty floral dress kept leaving—and then running back down the aisle, as Yuja sat down for another encore. One of the encores was Earl Wild’s transcription of the pas de quatre from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It is my favorite Wild transcription (of a great many). Earl was slinkier in it than Yuja was, but Yuja was good enough. I wonder whether she knows Wild’s Gershwin études. She would love them, and play them brilliantly.

What else? There was a Philip Glass piece—the Étude No. 6. It was a study in evenness: evenness of hands and evenness of mind. Wang bade farewell with the Precipitato, the last movement of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7. In my view, if you play it too fast, you deprive it of some of its character. Wang played it very fast. But it was characterful enough.

And Yuja floored everyone in the hall, I bet.

Did that include her teacher, Gary Graffman, sitting in the back? I don’t know. I suspect so. In any event, it was touching to see him there. A great musician, and a part of American history.

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