No one had to worry about the Iowa Piano Competition judges picking the wrong winner last year. Wayne Weng returned to perform with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night and wowed with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. [...] He was fully integrated, partnering each section with great precision. [...] Weng won the night – and should be invited back. [...] Saturday night, he brought it.
In the battle of the Beethovens, Wayne Weng emerged victorious Saturday night with a piano performance that was full of flourishes, emotion and technical strength. Weng won the seventh Iowa Piano Competition with a vibrant performance of Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major. [...] His ability to modulate the piano’s sound was superior, too, providing plenty of definition to each of his notes. [...] Weng, though, was superior on all counts. His technical skill coupled with his great ear easily gave him an edge.
So often these days speed of playing and excessive volume are seen as pointers of musical appreciation and expertise. Refreshingly, not so with Weng.From the opening flurries of Scarlatti’s Sonata in C sharp minor there was a delicacy amounting almost to reverence. Rounded, fluent phrasing was signed off with conclusions that had intrinsically muted chords which left the theme hanging there for the senses to savour. Weng’s succinct descriptions of his programme, although they could have done with more projection, were unashamedly personalised – ‘this is my favourite…’ for instance – but carried the same humility as his keyboard prowess. Chopin’s Sonata No 3 in B minor – played somewhat uninspiringly at the recent Leeds International Festival – became the piece of rare beauty that Chopin intended. The overtones of Bach had the crystalline touch of Chopin; the evocation of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata had darkness and moodiness, but neither was over-stated. Through a gossamery touch Weng laid a textured fabric that allowed theme to lay on theme so that each could be identified. The net result was that forte passages carried significance and impact. His own personality burst through in La Valse (Ravel). [...]His ‘personalisation’ to present, as Ravel intended, the sounds of an orchestra, was bold, vibrant and immensely musical.
The Canadian Wayne Weng, 25, valiantly tackled one of the more challenging Beethoven sonatas, followed by some passionately played late Schumann and an atmospheric Debussy piece. His playing of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, arranged by Horowitz, raised the excitement level of the afternoon several notches.