Xiayin Wang — Granados: Piano Works (Chandos)
A strong technique serves the music. That's what Chinese American pianist Xiayin Wang learned when she began her studies at the Shanghai Conservatory. When she moved to New York City more than 20 years ago to continue her studies at the Manhattan School of music, she learned something else about herself.
"I think I was more emotional than I thought I was. I felt that I was more able to let that part of me out into the music. I was able to free, in a way, free my imagination."
What's interesting about that to me is, as I'm listening to the music of Enrique Granados on this recording, one of the first things I thought of was how emotional this music is and how it's packed with so many moods.
"I call it like it's an emotional roller coaster. Every time I practice, especially number five in this Goyescas suite, it's the love and death. Oh my, I feel in my heart every time like my heart is sweaty because it's so emotional. It's beautiful, it's absolutely glorious to experience every note of it. He is a great composer."
That's interesting because that's also the longest of those six pieces.
"Right. And this movement has included all the themes of the six suites. And it has beautiful beautiful slow sections. Right before the last section, the middle section is absolutely full of bitterness and sadness. It's just my heart is crying if I play this. It's goosebumps and everything."
I also thought that the first movement was such a great way to start the set because it really brings you in right away. And I was almost thinking of Chopin as I was listening to that. Like the Grand Polonaise.
"Oh yes actually. Yes you're right. I believe it is in the same key. E-flat major. Yes. Now I just think of it. Yes. It's the first one is based on the folk dance as well. The character of the dance is, the second beat is the strong beat, and it's a very flirtatious dance."
Could you talk a little bit about the artist upon which these pieces are based? Granados collected the artwork of Goya, and then decided he was going to create these musical paintings to go with it. Would you talk a little bit about that and how that inspired him?
"His paintings had a lot of focus on daily life in Spain. So, when you listen to this music you can actually picture these in your mind and the music is so inspirational you actually can see the pictures what he is writing about. A lot of it has to do with Goya, the paintings by Goya."
What makes these pieces so challenging to play?
"They're very technically demanding, because of the emotional style writing. So it has a lot of improvisation-like passages. So it requires a very delicate touch to the piano and very fast changes into moods. Also, the piece is quite long itself. The Sixth Suite is almost 50 minutes or so."
In addition to the Goyescas suite, Xiayin Wang includes Eight Poetic Waltzes, an early work from Enrique Granados, and a stamping dance which comes from six pieces based on Spanish folksongs. Xiayin says this little piece is inspired by Andalusian flamenco, and it's quite challenging for the fingers.
"Zapato in Spanish means 'shoe.' So, as you said it's something the shoes like almost like a tap dance. So lots of rhythm. The rhythm is very crystalline, very clear crystal clear in this piece. And the drive of the whole piece...it's a small little dance but very satisfying."
A new recording celebrating the Spanish sounds of Enrique Granados, with pianist Xiayin Wang.
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Granados: Piano Works (Amazon)
Xiayin Wang (official site)