Yuja Wang Pays Tribute to Disney, Horowitz in 'Fantasia'

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The Chinese pianist Yuja Wang wanted to pay tribute to Disney’s "Fantasia," a film that marked one of her first encounters with classical music as a child. Thus the concept of her fourth album, which was released last month. It features her arrangement of Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a centerpiece of the Disney film, along with 17 other mostly encore-length pieces.

Over the past year or so, the 25-year-old Wang has been creating a sensation of almost hysteric proportions. She has made waves as a fashionista, not afraid to wear eye-catching outfits, including that orange party dress that triggered a wave of commentary last year when she appeared at the Hollywood Bowl (to which she expressed an apparent bemusement in interviews). 

But more importantly, there are her keyboard talents — a stunning and precise technique matched with passion and sensitivity. These are amply on display in “Fantasia,” which in addition to the Dukas, features miniatures ranging from Rachmaninoff to Domenico Scarlatti, Gluck, Schubert, Scriabin, Ravel and Albéniz. The collection tries to break with the conventional notion that the miniature, a genre in itself, is just a bit of sugary pyrotechnics. There's Chopin's famous C-sharp minor waltz played with remarkable poise; a rippling Liszt arrangement of Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade; and Giovanni Sgambati’s rarely-heard version of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.

Besides saluting Disney, Wang makes another tribute on this album, to the piano legend Vladimir Horowitz, who is identified with his transcriptions of Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre and Bizet’s Carmen. Rounding out the album is the enjoyably over-the-top Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka by Johann Strauss Jr. Watch a video of Wang performing the piece below:

Yuja Wang: Fantasia
Deutsche Grammophone
Available at Arkivmusic.com