Hello, dear PianoArts blog-readers! Today is Solo Recital Day, meaning that each semifinalist will give a solo recital before three professional judges and three student judges, as well as whatever random audience members happen to be in the room. I'm going to have a short review of each performer for you as they come up, so if you couldn't make it to all twelve recitals, you should still have some idea of what's going on.
Josephine Yang, who hails from Phoenix, Arizona, was the first contestant. And let me say, Yang blew the doors off the concert hall! Her style of play is very loud, fast and in-your-face, and her repertoire allowed her to play to that strength. After the required selection from J.S. Bach's "The Well-Tempered Clavier", Yang launched into Chopin's Nocturne No. 13 and just about raced through it. She was very loud, aggressive and very into the music, but Yang isn't a one-dimensional pianist; she wound up the tempest as softly and calmly as you please.
Next up was a selection from Maurice Ravel's Miroirs, namely "Alborada del gracioso: 'The Comedian's Aubade'". Again, her interpretation of the piece was very fast, loud and precise: she seemed very comfortable playing at Roadrunner-like speeds, and carried the piece off well. Yang is a very physical pianist, and a lot of fun to watch; every complicated phrase with the left hand is accompanied by a flourish, and every climatic moment with a nod of the head and a toss of her hair. You could tell watching her that she was extremely into the music she'd chosen to play.
Before the final piece, Lowell Liebermann's Gargoyles, Yang took a moment to explain it to the audience. She seemed moderately comfortable talking to the crowd, but grew more and more at ease when explaining the distinctive sound of each movement (I. sudden, II. atmospheric, III. wavelike motions, IV. Attack!). Her explanations were clear and easy to follow, and what's more, they helped me understand the piece that followed them. I loved the eerie, ethereal sound in the second movement, "Adagio semplice, ma con molto rubato". (Just don't ask me what that means.) Yang wound up the fourth "Attack!" movement with a thunderous crescendo that made every living soul in the building sit up straight. For fire and passion in this competition, it'll be hard to top Josephine Yang.