in: Reviews

August 2, 2018

The Press of Larry Weng

by

Larry Weng (file photo)

Larry Weng may or may not have been in an actual hurry Monday night before and during his Walnut Hill recital in the Chinese Foundation for Performing Arts Festival. He presents as no-nonsense, sometimes tending to the brusque. If you’ve been listening to poky keyboard ponderosities, of course, vigor is welcome. But to my ear, this evening of Weng seldom exhaled. His quick tempos aside, long stretches simply felt as tense as held breath.

Weng introduced the pieces, proposing a Paris theme to the evening. Mozart K.310: the 22-year-old composer job-seeking there with his mother, who suddenly dies. Then the launch into a fast, rather flattened rendition of the Allegro maestoso (low in anger, among other things). The long Andante did begin to sing, a ways in, and by its bassy development Weng had the drama speaking movingly. The Presto reverted to nearly inflection-free playing.

Ravel prompted a Paris mention too. He composed Miroirs’s five impressionistic images for members of the composer’s posse. “Noctuelles” featured awfully large moths. “Oiseaux tristes” came fully to sad life, each bird demarcated and colored with great finesse. “Une barque sur l’océan” rippled and rocked, as beautifully painted as I have heard. “Alborada del gracioso” dawned expertly but a little tamely, until the erupting ending, which really did come up like thunder. “La vallée des cloches” evoked what it’s supposed to, though I’ve never heard a version that did not.

Schubert’s late A-major Sonata (D.959) faintly resumed that pressed, let’s-get-through-this vibe. The Allegro was not much measured, shaped, gently felt, as Weng is here. There were some flubs. Yet again things improved sharply. In the aching Andantino, the 30-year-old pianist abandoned himself, intently listening and deeply engaging as Schubert waltzes with death, and then, suddenly, that growing, terrifying discharge breaks in. The Scherzo’s trio hypnotized the space, but the surrounding music combined perhaps inapposite seriousness with passages of rushing. The Rondo was almost gruff from excess speed and tenseness. No matter what has preceded it, it’s still clearly song.

Weng encored with his own piano transcription of Mozart’s K.617 Adagio for glass harmonica, and it exhaled.

Based on the effective reflective moments in these three works, and his performance of last summer, I look forward to hearing Larry Weng again.

David Moran has been an occasional Boston-area music critic for 50 years, with special interest in the keyboard.

2 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. A belated comment –
    I’m not a big Chopin fan, so I was delighted to be able to attend a Walnut Hill recital devoid of Chopin and the contrived rubato that younger players often seem compelled to include. Overall, unlike reviewer Moran (and with thanks for his review), I thoroughly enjoyed the recital. I was disappointed that only perhaps 50 people attended. Regarding the Mozart, I agree that the first movement lacked the requisite “maestoso-ness,” but the rest was lovely to my ear (the one without tinnitus). The Alborada del Gracioso sparkled and the Schubert had all the drama and grace that one could ask for. I had a fine evening, I even enjoyed Weng’s introductory comments, mindful that at least half the audience appeared to be students who would benefit from the context.

    Comment by Bob D. — August 10, 2018 at 5:25 am

  2. I concur in this disappointment. Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts concerts, especially at Walnut Hill, and especially piano recitals, are woefully underattended. Some performers and performances are stronger than others, of course. But I have heard some astoundingly fine interpretations over the last several years, moreso than from many namebrand artists, and afterward looked around and counted <100 concertgoers even at the best-attended events.

    Comment by davidrmoran — August 10, 2018 at 11:20 am

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