Fang Yuan Brings Fresh Feelings to Old Haunts

By Luis Vazquez

The Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall was full with spectators but an empty stage with a lone piano standing in the center. But the vibrations in the hall would soon fluctuate as the subject of the night, Chinese Pianist, Fang Yuan, entered. The woman who Sueddeutsche Zeitung described as one “who tugs at the heartstrings of the audience,” did just that with the touch of the professor she is, the youngest ever to hold the post in China.

Fang performed pieces from Franz Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms, and Frederic Chopin that evening. In addition she added her own personal project to the program.

Starting off with Haydn’s Sonata in C Major, Hob XVI: No. 50, the first thing Yuan established for her New York audience is her touch. Her fingers seemed to glide over the pearly keys with a feel so delicate, one would be hard-pressed to find a print on any of them.

The depth of soul was reflected in her movements. In Brahm’s Seven Fantasies, Fang was able to flip effortlessly from fast to slow paces. She deliberately would remove her hands and with eyes closed, strike a still pose before resuming with a slight touch that signaled the next piece.

At the Intermisson, one thing was for certain. We were looking atan experienced master of her instrument. Like a matador evading a bull, Yuan took the heavy keys and made them dance to her tune. This was especially true when she returned to play “Yellow River Rhapsody.”

This personal work consisted of the first three movements of a revised version of Xian Xinghai’s “Yellow River Cantata.” If you listened closely you could pick out a fresh take on traditional themes between the rapid strikes throughout the piece which was aimed for more worldwide appeal. “I feel strongly that this work should have even more chances to reach out to the world,” Yuan explained. In it she spotlighted the Yellow River Boatman’s Song and an Ode and Wrath of the same.

The close was a tribute to Chopin via the “Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op 22. Yuan, as she did throughout, was able to bring out the heroic aspects of the song as well as a sense of showbiz themes at other times. Taking a perverbial breath between breaks, she successfully transferred her energy from the set of 88 to the 600 souls in attendance.

She received flowers afterwards and gave us an encore performance before joining her fans in a very calm gathering afterwards.

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