Korean Piano Star Joyce Yang Sets Off an Explosion of Color in Her Sydney Recital

by Madonna

Korean virtuoso Joyce Yang brought the full spectrum of orchestral colors to her piano performance, showcasing three excerpts from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet during an all-Russian program for her Sydney Symphony recital concert.

A day prior, Yang had delivered a dazzling performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under German conductor Kevin John Edusei, who was making his Australian debut.


For this concert, however, it was just Yang and a Steinway grand piano. The program included selections from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, three Sergei Rachmaninov preludes, and a vividly poetic interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.


Yang’s playing is characterized by poetry and color, partly due to her synesthesia, which allows her to see music in a landscape of hues. Her clarity, control, and precise technique have earned her a large fanbase in Sydney, bolstered by her appearances since her Australian debut at 24 in the 2010 SSO recital series.


She began the evening with six Tchaikovsky miniatures, emphasizing expression and nuance over sheer virtuosity. The heartwarming melody of January transitioned to the lively Carnival (February), where Yang’s dynamic performance had her swaying with the rhythm.

The concert then shifted to the darker tones of Rachmaninov, with two preludes from the Op. 32 set, followed by the flowing, Chopinesque No. 4 from Op. 23.

The first half concluded with the multi-hued Three Movements from The Firebird, in a piano arrangement by Guido Agosti. Yang delivered the thunderous chords of the Finale and skillfully interpreted the Infernal Dance of King Kaschkai and the dreamy lullaby Berceuse.

Yang’s 40-minute performance of Mussorgsky’s musical tour of Viktor Hartmann’s paintings was both robust and poetic. Her rendition of the lumbering oxcart Bydlo was slower and louder than usual, while her touch, clever pedal work, and tonal accuracy shone in the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks and the depiction of children playing in the gardens of the Tuileries.

The recurring Promenade theme, which separates each portrait, was given varied nuances, sometimes strutting proudly, at others limping.

The final piece, The Great Gate of Kiev, was extraordinarily powerful, with Yang almost leaping from her seat as she pounded out the resonant, bell-like chords.


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