The young Chinese-born pianist Xiayin Wang, now resident in the USA, has been enthralling audiences worldwide and gaining ever greater international acclaim with her winning combination of consummate technical brilliance, fine musicianship, and personal verve. Equally renowned as a recitalist and chamber musician, she is here the soloist in three great piano concertos by the American composers George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Samuel Barber, performed with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Peter Oundjian.
The Concerto in F by Gershwin, composed in 1925, represents one of his finest syntheses of the classical and jazz traditions. His extraordinary skill as a tunesmith is heard in full force within the concerto’s three movements, the work expressing his ‘unabashed delight in the stridency, the gaucheries, the joy and excitement of life as it is lived right here and now’. Xiayin Wang has already shown her natural affinity with Gershwin’s music in her previous Chandos release, playing Earl Wild’s Gershwin transcriptions with ‘verve, brilliance and sheer delight’, as American Record Guide put it.
Copland’s Piano Concerto from 1927 is another work influenced by jazz. At the time of its premiere, comparisons were inevitably drawn between this and Gershwin’s Concerto but Copland dismissed the influence of Gershwin. Rather, his style reflects the jazz elements used by composers living in Paris in the 1920s, such as Milhaud and Stravinsky. The work’s two distinct sections reflect what Copland believed to be the two basic moods of jazz, ‘the slow blues and the snappy number’.
Barber’s Pulitzer Prize winning Concerto for Piano dates from 1962. Like the other two works on the disc it shows the diversity of influence in American music in the twentieth century. Moments of harmonic ambiguity and muscular dissonance reflect Barber’s interest in Russian music, a subtle jazz influence enriching the musical language, especially in the rhythms of the compact finale. The music manifests a dramatic and rhetorical style, however, that is deeply rooted in a romanticism which pervades all of Barber’s output.