By Greg Cahill | From the November-December 2022 issue of Strings magazine
Wenting Kang was the winner of the 2012 First Prize of the Tokyo International Viola Competition and from the first notes of her debut album, Mosaic, you know she’s special. The New York Times has noted she “possesses a dark glowing sound”—certainly her alluring, sensitive reading of Debussy’s “Beau Soir,” arranged by Jascha Heifetz, evokes a deep sense of mystery.
Of this collection of French and Spanish works, Kang has said, “These composers not only had a strong impact on each other’s work, but they were also very connected in their personal lives.” Some of them were professor and student, such as Fauré and Ravel. Others were close friends and colleagues, such as Fauré and Albéniz, Ravel and de Falla, Tárrega and Casals and de Falla, and so on. Many of these Romantic-era works are arranged and recorded for viola for the first time, and Kang is a powerful advocate for her instrument—this well-conceived program is a thoughtful showcase for the viola and it’s full of highlights.
The way Kang lingers on the melody of Casals’ striking “El Cant dels Ocells (Song of the Birds),” and hits high harmonics and coaxes triple-stops on Nishimura’s “Fantasia on Song of the Birds,” is breathtaking. There is an elegiac quality to several of these works, but Kang also takes flight, as on Fauré’s playful Papillion, Op. 77, and Albéniz’s sublime Tango in D major, Op. 165, No. 2. One of the year’s most impressive debuts.