Kang Creates Colorful Mosaic
Mosaic Wenting Kang, viola. Sergei Kvitko, piano. Blue Griffin Records 609 Total Time: 70:52 Recording: ****/**** Performance: ****/****
In her debut solo album, violist Wenting Kang draws together a variety of French and Spanish music from that fruitful period around the beginning of the 20th Century. Kang is currently principal violist with the Orquestra Sinfonica de Madrid and also teaches locally while leading masterclasses in her instrument and chamber music around the world.
The program is a host of transcriptions that alternate from French Impressionism to Spanish folkloricism with its nods to Nationalist and Impressionist colors. The composers represented are also interconnected by their friendships and interactions in the period which makes for a fine way pull together the program as a whole.
Music by Debussy opens this recital with a gorgeous performance of “Beau Soir” in an adapted transcription by Heifetz. Kang’s performance of the Premiere Rhapsodie though (originally for clarinet) will stun the listener with its beautiful warm tone and superb support from her accompanist Sergei Kvitko. From these moments of engaging phrasing and interpretation, we move to a more technical exercise in her performance of Tarrega’s Recuerdo de la Alhambra. This transcription by the violin virtuoso Ruggiero Ricci shifts quite well to the viola here and Kang’s performance is stunning. Most telling is how all that energy must eventually be calmed down in the final bars and this is handled quite well. For contrast, she shifts to a fittingly languid performance of Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defunte. The darker tones of the viola work well to make this an engaging interpretation.
In this way, Kang’s recital moves is from these lyrical reflections to the contrasting rhythms of Spanish music in the hands of Ravel (“Vocalise-etude en forme de Habanera”), Albeniz (“Tango in D”) and a set of seven transcriptions from de Falla’s Canciones populares espanolas (worth the price of admission on their own in these performances!). The first portion of the recital also concludes with a set of four pieces by Faure. There is a gorgeous reading of the Elegie in c, Op. 24; Papillon, Op. 77; Berceuse, Op. 16; and an interesting shift of Pablo Casals transcription of Apres un reve, Op. 7, no. 1. Each of these are great examples of the sort of classic recital albums of the past. Casals’ Song of the Birds appears later in the program after a fascinating newer work by Akira Nishimura (Fantasia on Song of the Birds). The placement of these next to one another allow for a perfect comparison of two very different musical voices exploring the same tune.
Throughout, Kvitko provides apt stylistic support capturing the nuances of the music with great clarity. In such a way, Kang’s interpretations are made even more compelling as this engaging set of old favorites in new dress moves along. Kang’s lyrical playing draws the listener in to these pieces quite well and her technical virtuosity seems almost effortlessly realized. As one listens, these familiar works feel fresh and new, but quite natural. The Debussy rhapsody will be a nice surprise addition to rediscover in this release but it is in the more familiar moments of Ravel and Faure where the lyrical playing capture a deep emotional connection. The lighter touches needed for the Spanish numbers are equally exciting contrasts. Mosaic is indeed a colorful collection of music that allows a deeper appreciation of Kang’s musicianship.
The recording is also excellently balanced with a forward miking of the viola that images the sound much like one would expect in a concert setting. There is just enough ambient support to keep things from being too dry acoustically which really aids the faster works, but brings an added depth to the darker, lyrical music quite well. This is a superb release from an artist worth watching and is not to be missed.