The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Phenom pianist and fashion plate Yuja Wang opens up to The New York Times about her artistic goals and her personal lifestyle. | April 14, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

I will admit it: I am a big fan of Yuja Wang (below).

I find her playing assured and her stupendously fluid technique superb (see the bottom). I like her buoyant and infectious self-confidence. And I find her visual presence quite lovely and spicy, even edgy with the exactly the right kind of youthful energy that classical music needs right now to revitalize itself to a largely visual generation.

So I was particularly pleased to read a long profile written by Vivien Schweitzer of The New York Times.

In it, Wang explains a lot about her background and development as a pianist and as a public figure. It is hard to believe, for example, that a young performing artist with such charisma often finds herself lonely. But she admits that with the same openness that shows in her playing and in her stage presence.

Most of all, I enjoyed how unapologetic Wang is about her career and her treatment in the press, which has not always been kind or generous, especially about her sexy, provocative or even controversial manner of dressing for a concert, whether it is an orange micro-skirt or black gown with a thigh-high slit:

I also liked her relaxed attitude towards her own career – that is, she will enjoy it while she can and not worry about the future!

So I offer this to lots of others fans in the hope that also like it, and to those who aren’t fans in the hope that they might be persuaded.

Time and history, of course, will have the final say. But it seems to The Ear that we are in the presence of a major pianistic talent when we listen to Wang. Sure, she needs time to mature as a musician – and she admits as much is discussing the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. But she has already come a long way and she probably has a lot of time for the maturing part.

But read this profile, listen to her recordings and decide for yourselves.



  1. Jake,

    I just listened to the clips on your piece of Wang doing the Carmen piece & Flight of the Bumble Bee encore. INcredible! The latter reminded me of the Australian guy who studied in the UK, then had a mental breakdown immediately after playing the Rachmaninoff 2d Pf Con. He did the Bumble Bee on a piano in a restaurant and I’d say his tempo was about the same as Wang’s. Amazing. Like the Minute Waltz in 20 seconds!


    Comment by buppanasu — April 15, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  2. Jake,

    I’ve not heard Wang yet, but if her playing is even half as alluring as her physical appearance, she’s a bigger draw than Van Cliburn. Thanks for keeping us up to date.


    Comment by buppanasu — April 14, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    • Hi Larry,
      I like your mention of Van Cliburn: It is a telling comparison in terms of press fascination.
      But her physical allure aside, I think you would like her playing — at least in most cases.
      I think she needs some maturing in her interpretations and I want to hear her in more important repertoire.
      But so far she is the real deal.
      When you finally get to hear her, I hope you agree.

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 15, 2012 @ 11:41 am

      • Jake,

        I just read a full-page piece on Wang in the NY Times. She studied in Canada & then @ Curtis. Re: Van Cliburn, I saw him doing his scholarship concerts @ the Nat. Music Camp several summers when I was a music librarian there & @ the Interlochen Arts Academy. Cliburn was a superb technician but such a Mama’s boy. Initially, she went almost everywhere with him, even to the bathroom.

        He conducted the World Youth Symphony on a 12″ LP RCA recording of Vaught-Williams Serenade to Music for which I sang tenor in the chorus. Though not a commercial success, we did get some good reviews. Then in 1963 he conducted the IAA Symphony doing . . . some Rachmaninoff orchestral piece as I recall. He was a great kybd artist but as a conductor, not so much. Living/working @ the IAA was a great experience.

        Comment by buppanasu — April 15, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

  3. There’s no doubt she’s fleet of finger, lithe of limb and (if you’re of a certain age) capable of displaying the latest styles (including those crazy high heels that just HAVE to change one’s pedaling technique).

    The kind of talent she’s reported to have SHOULD supersede all talk of fashion (it doesn’t).

    As professor Graffman says, technique is no big deal these days (Arthur Rubinstein said something similar along the lines that all the young pianists play note perfect but without soul.) and while I admire this and other wunderkind’s faultless mastery of getting the right fingers to the right keys, I’m mostly left frigidly cold by a deep space absence of light, warmth, and human emotion.

    The match always burns brightest when it’s first struck and so let’s wait a decade or two before getting too giddy about ‘purt near nekked performances.

    When the audience spends most of the concert in rapt aural concentration rather than enraptured ogling, then we’ll know we’ve got a star on our hands.

    Comment by michaelpscott — April 14, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    • Hi Michael,
      I am a Yuja Wang fan but agree with you completely.
      History will have the final say and I hope we hear some deeper repertoire soon.
      I think use has the potential of greatness, but realizing that is another story.
      Thank you for reading an deploying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 14, 2012 @ 11:07 am

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