PROKOFIEV PIANO MUSIC
Jerry Wong, piano
Visions Fugitives; Piano Sonata No. 8; 4 Pieces
Program Notes: During his youthful years, Sergei Prokofiev was acknowledged as the enfant terrible of the musical world. He recognized the piano as a percussive instrument, and his music brought an element of motoric energy and sarcastic wit to a level never before explored. In 1918, an American critic described Prokofiev’s piano performance style: “steel fingers, steel wrists, steel biceps and triceps… he is a tonal steel thrust,” an approach of playing that translated into his compositions as well. Nevertheless, lyricism was also an integral component for Prokofiev, who described melody as “the most important element of music.” The three works on this disc reveal both the romantic and lyrical facets of Prokofiev’s work. In addition, they also trace three distinct periods of his life: the Four Pieces, as a 17-year old student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in the Russian Empire; Visions fugitives, as a frequent traveler abroad, working with Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes; and the Sonata No.8, as permanent resident in the Soviet Union.
"Jerry Wong's disc paints an commendably rounded composer portrait... The incisive whimsy of Visions Fugitives obliges Wong's instinctive poeticism... "
"[Wong's] approach is perfect for the Visions Fugitives, easily the best complete set I’ve heard. Just as fine are Op. 4. Wong coaxes a wide range of sonorities here, from the quiet legato of ‘Reminiscences’ to the steel-fingered accented climax of ‘Suggestion Diabolique’.. These are fine sounding recordings, with perceptive notes, and have been a source of many enjoyable listening hours over the past month."
"[Jerry Wong's] Prokofiev program nicely charts the composer’s stylistic development from the enfant terrible of the Op. 4 pieces through the surreal fantasy world of the Visions Fugitives to the epic Soviet Modernism of the mighty Eighth Sonata... In the two earlier sets, he is at his best where rich-toned warmth is called for... The epic canvas of the sonata seems to suit him...in an altogether coherent and satisfying overall conception. He possesses an acute ear for color—hear his richly varied unfolding of the opening paragraphs, and the way he taps into the second theme’s vein of nostalgic yearning, with its undercurrent of unease... the massive structures of the outer movements are well paced and sustained, and he rises to the final climax of the finale with some exciting playing."
"A satisfying program... Jerry Wong is an expressive pianist with a good ear for color and contrast... [In the Visions Fugitives] his playing is limpid and energetic, and he elicits a wonderfully crystalline tone..."
"Jerry Wong brings both depth of feeling and powerful technique... we can savor Prokofiev’s by-turns sweet and acerbic writing, especially since Wong plays with much expressivity and a wide dynamic range, well captured by the MSR engineers in a powerful recording."
"Wong has no trouble at all with the technical demands and plays with good energy and strength. Yet he also gives them a thorough and thoughtful musicality that might not necessarily be associated with such youthful music. Wong applies the same maturity to everything here, from the briefest of the Visions Fugitives to the fullness of the opening of the Sonata No. 8... He knows these are major works and performs them with seriousness, but he is not so earnest as to miss the hallmark signs of Prokofiev's wit when they appear, particularly in the Visions, where he navigates easily through the rapidly changing moods. In places like that, where some pianists would take a more percussive approach to their attack, Wong pays more attention to the overall pianistic qualities of Prokofiev's writing. The sound of the recording is very deep and picks up Wong's attention to the colors of the instrument. A worthy recording of these works."
“Wong performs all these works with concision, a sense of elegance (in the scientific sense of no wasted motion whatsoever), and an unerring instinct for placing just the right emphasis in the right place in order to achieve the desired effect. When the subject is Prokofiev, that’s very important, for his music cries out for the bold, precise characterization that Wong gives it... Wong brings [introspection and gentle nostalgia to this music] better than anyone I have heard to assay the Eighth since the late Emil Gilels... [In Visions fugitives] Wong plays the gently elegiac 7, Comodo, to utter perfection."
“[Jerry Wong’s playing was] eloquent and elegant… [with] passion and introspection…sensitivity and a finely honed sense of style”.
“…a young Murray Perahia.”
“…elegant rubatos….[and] interpretive imagination.”