Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 14, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Xiaohui Yang"

Evergreen Crossings, South Windsor, CT
November 12, 2023
by Michael J. Moran

The third concert of SWCA’s 41st season featured Chinese pianist Xiaohui Yang – a winner of the 2017 Naumburg International Piano Competition, and a Curtis, Juilliard, and Peabody graduate - in a richly varied program of challenging repertoire, which she introduced with brief, informative, and touchingly personal comments.

She opened with a supple account of Mozart’s 1782 “Twelve Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je maman,” better known to Americans as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It must have delighted her seven-week-old daughter Maya, who she said was her rehearsal audience for this performance.

Next came sensitive readings of two Nocturnes by Faure. Placing the more “sorrowful” No. 7 in C-sharp minor (1898) before the sunnier No. 6 in D-sharp major (1894), Yang faithfully captured the full emotional turmoil of both pieces. To illustrate their “contrast” with the contemporary “Four Pieces for Piano,” Op. 119 (1893) by Brahms, she played these three Intermezzos and closing Rhapsody with a more classical restraint.  

Introducing the “Six Little Piano Pieces,” Op. 19 by Schoenberg, Yang was almost apologetic for the music’s atonal style. But her prediction that it would be surprisingly listenable proved accurate, as her crystalline keyboard touch teased out hints of melody in these sparkling miniatures.

Commissioned by the Naumburg Foundation for Yang’s Carnegie Hall premiere, Israeli American composer Shulamit Ran’s 2019 “Ballade” alternates declamatory with reflective passages. Yang said Ran told her to “have fun and run with it;” her exuberant approach to the work in South Windsor exuded that spirit.    

Crediting her husband for suggesting that she end the concert, as she began it, with a set of variations, she closed the afternoon with an electrifying rendition of Chopin’s 1827 “Variations on La ci darem la mano,” a flirtatious duet in Mozart’s 1787 opera “Don Giovanni.” In this showpiece Yang demonstrated the combination of technical finesse and interpretive depth that suggest a long and brilliant career ahead for this engaging young artist.

All concerts in this free series take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm, and seating on a first-come, first-served basis begins a half-hour prior. Next up SWCA will present violinist Irina Muresanu and pianist Daniel Del Pino on January 21, 2024.