Home Theatre Bocheng Wang delivers a fearsome Agosti Firebird in a nice Wigmore Corridor recital – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Bocheng Wang delivers a fearsome Agosti Firebird in a nice Wigmore Corridor recital – Seen and Heard Worldwide

Bocheng Wang delivers a fearsome Agosti Firebird in a nice Wigmore Corridor recital – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United KingdomUnited Kingdom Bach, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky (arr. Agosti): Bocheng Wang (piano). Wigmore Corridor, London, 14.6.2023. (MBr)

Bocheng Wang

J. S. Bach – Italian Concerto in F. BWV 971
Rachmaninoff – Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op.42
Stravinsky (arr. Guido Agosti) – Three actions from The Firebird Suite

Bocheng Wang, born in Lanzhou, China, in 1997 however presently finding out for his Superior Diploma on the Royal Academy of Music in London, is clearly a virtuoso pianist of the primary order if this lunchtime recital at Wigmore Corridor was something to by. Three works have been on this system – by Bach, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky/Agosti ­– all of them performed at his RAM recital in Might this 12 months, with the one exception of the Rachmaninoff/Arcadi Volodos transcription of the Andante from the G minor Cello Sonata which was lacking.

Bocheng Wang does, I believe, wish to take a danger. As bold as this program was it was one which was not with out traps, and I’m not positive he didn’t fall into a couple of of them. Bach’s Italian Concerto in F, for instance, is in no way the obvious selection of his works for a solo recital; likewise, the Guido Agosti association of Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite is significantly greater than the taxing issue of the piano half.

The Italian Concerto was written for the harpsichord – particularly the two-manual type of instrument. Bach created distinction on this Italian mannequin by making use of the forte and piano manuals; for the pianist it’s moderately extra difficult to get something comparable from the usual keyboard so to do that he wants to change the dynamic steadiness and tonal color. This did, actually, work nicely for Bocheng Wang within the Andante, which was terribly superbly finished (and maybe barely slower than marked). The left-hand within the bass was wealthy, and there have been touches of Rococo florets within the right-hand that curled ornately by way of the hovering melody round it. Much less sure-footed to me have been the 2 outer actions. The opening Allegro appeared a bit of impatient, rhythms a bit too springy, and an absence of concord between the right-hand and the left-hand meant the narrative and its surrounding music didn’t at all times lock collectively. The Presto, as so usually with performances of this work, drew me again to the Bacchic fury within the final motion of Beethoven’s Seventh: how far do you press ahead and the way far do you reign all of it in? Bocheng Wang selected to get pleasure from each second of Bach’s crisp, sensible keyboard writing, and it was usually dazzling. Maybe, nonetheless, it galloped in direction of the gate just a bit too quick; a few of Bach’s melody was left trailing within the mud, the remaining in a hazy mist.

Rachmaninoff by no means recorded his Variations on a Theme of Corelli; certainly, in a letter to Nikolai Medtner in 1931 he wrote: ‘I’ve performed the Variations about fifteen instances, however of those fifteen performances just one was good. The others have been sloppy. I can’t even play my very own compositions!’ The Variations have been the final main work he wrote for solo piano (other than revising the Piano Sonata No.2 the identical 12 months) they usually look ahead to the 1934 Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, moderately than again to the Chopin Variations of 1902/3. Not like the sooner variations, those he primarily based on Corelli (or, not Corelli because it was from an outdated Portuguese dance tune often called La Folie) the later ones are significantly extra various.

Rachmaninoff’s supposed issue with this piece may need one thing to do with what Earl Wild described as its ‘gnarly’ complexity. Wang was, I believe, greatest within the work’s extra virtuosic music; the opening 4 variations, for instance, all slower in tempo, had felt laboured, albeit labouring that was most superbly toned. However the grippingly finished arpeggios of the Allegro and L’istesso tempo (No.5 and No.6) have been massively spectacular. The Intermezzo was delivered as a dreamy cadenza of high-powered virtuosity – stamping D-flat main on this efficiency like a sledgehammer. It proved one thing of a turning level on this recital – the ‘majestic’ key, as Berlioz as soon as described it – permitting Bocheng Wang to claim a dominance over the return of D minor when it reappeared to launch into a few of his most ferocious taking part in to date. The remaining variations have been excessive voltage, No.19 virtually like the within of Dante’s Inferno with its simmering fireplace; No.18’s octaves had been rhetorically highly effective. The crescendo to No.20 had been Olympian (with highly effective, rumbling low D octaves) nevertheless it was an ideal setting for a properly managed coda to finish the efficiency.

I don’t assume this had at all times been probably the most sonorous account, nor probably the most convincingly intense. The capriciousness and impulsiveness of youth got here extra to the fore than any deeper the Aristocracy within the music. However there was a lot to admire on this efficiency, in a piece which so usually finally ends up being a graveyard for its interpreters.

I received’t lie – the foremost attraction of this recital was the Stravinsky/Agosti The Firebird Suite. Guido Agosti made his transcription in 1928 when he was twenty-seven years outdated and devoted it to his instructor, Busoni. Schott, who publish the rating, recommend a length of ten-minutes – a time, I’ve to say, I’ve by no means heard any pianist in live performance come near. Wang could nicely have come nearer than most; it felt astonishingly quick. However whether or not he did or whether or not or didn’t the sheer high quality of this efficiency put this recital in fairly a distinct league. From the second he launched into the opening of the Danse Infernale a really completely different pianist had appeared on the keyboard.

The main downside with Agosti’s transcription isn’t actually its fearsome issue however what he asks the pianist to do to recreate one thing of Stravinsky’s orchestral scoring. In a single bar alone of the Danse Infernale, Agosti requires a variety of dynamics from sff to mf and a glissandi; right here he additionally gives a much less vibrant ossia (with out the glissandi), however that is uncommon in a piece which is solely about voicing the music, articulation, variation of contact and inventive rubato.

I acquired moderately much less of the religious aspect of Stravinsky’s Firebird from Wang’s efficiency and moderately extra of the paganist – and it usually felt extra inclined in direction of Scriabin in its contours than it did, maybe, in direction of Rimsky-Korsakov. If, for instance, his very quick tempo made Agosti’s staccato sound like Scribanesque bullets this wasn’t essentially a disadvantage – as nicely drilled and performed as they have been they have been thrilling to hearken to. However when it got here to taking part in Sempre legato, Wang was usually too quick to make the transition a seamless one. Nonetheless, this opening dance was an impressive tour de power of huge hammerings, thrilling keyboard runs and highly effective octave leaps. If pace is usually a masks to cowl error that was not the case right here – his accuracy was formidable.

The Berceuse was extraordinarily superbly finished. In a few of his most expressive and bewitching taking part in of the recital, he conveyed not solely among the music’s intimacy however a lot of its artistic brilliance. The glowing, scintillating fireplace of the coruscating and thunderous Finale, melded together with his approach to perfection. Tremolos, arpeggios, speedy figurations have been spot on; on the finish he had the piano ringing with bell-like vividness.

If the Stravinsky/Agosti is an element ballet it’s also half portray. The best performances take you not simply into The Firebird itself but additionally into works like Kandinsky’s Composition VII the place this transcription’s expressionism meets color and sound in a type of synaesthesia. This had been a efficiency steeped in virtuosity; it had been cautious to stay devoted to Stravinsky’s ballet while additionally managing to daub the partitions of Wigmore Corridor in splashes of color. It was actually one of many most interesting performances of the piece I’ve but heard.

There was an enormous quantity on this recital by Bocheng Wang that was excellent; the exceptionally vivid and sensible Firebird Suite will lengthy stay within the reminiscence.

Marc Bridle



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