The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Could Yuja Wang be a case of early burnout or overexposure? I doubt it. So where in the world is she? What is she playing? What is she doing? What is she recording? And what is she wearing? | March 30, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

For a while there, about a year ago, the young Chinese-born and American-trained pianist Yuja Wang (below) was setting the classical world on fire. She is very exciting, as you can see at the bottom in a YouTube video.

YujaWangphotoblack dress

With four Deutsche Grammophon recordings to her credit, the photogenic and virtuosic young Wang, now 26, also had garnered two Grammy nominations.

Her Carnegie Hall debut (below) got a rave review from Anthony Tommasini, the choosy senior critic for The New York Times:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/classical-music-qa-and-review-is-yuja-wang-the-new-horowitz-in-her-carnegie-hall-recital-debut-she-seems-the-successor-to-martha-argerich-as-both-her-playing-and-dress-get-raves-from-the-new-y/

And she also gave the Times a great interview:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/classical-music-phenom-pianist-and-fashion-plate-yuja-wang-reveals-her-openness-her-artistic-goals-and-her-personal-lifestyle-to-the-new-york-times/

And Wang’s penchant for sexy concert attire – either the red micro-skirt (below top) at the Hollywood Bowl or the slit-thigh black gown (bottom) at Carnegie Hall – had stirred comments and controversy.

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/classical-music-pianist-yuja-wang-isn’t-alone-in-using-her-sexy-good-looks-chic-fashion-and-in-your-face-media-remarks-to-create-controversy-and-controversy-to-advance-her-career/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/classical-music-poll-was-yuja-wang’s-concert-skirt-too-short-what-is-inappropriate-concert-attire-for-a-performer-male-or-female/

yuja wang dress times 3

Yuja Wang at Carnegie Ruby Washington NYTimes

So I recently wondered what Yuja Wang was up to.

I searched for news, and found precious little except for a rave review of her recent solo recital debut last Sunday in Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Hall:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-yuja-wang-review-20130326,0,2575431.story?track=rss

I also checked out her website (www.yujawang.com) — it seems quite out of date — and found nothing later than her going to Mumbai, India to dedicate a new Steinway concert grand. That old news! Two years old!

I also found nothing about her next recording project, although I suspect it will be Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 coupled maybe with Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3. (After a fine recording of two Rachmaninoff Concertos with Claudio Abbado, she put out “Fantasia,”an album of miniatures and encores that I was not so thrilled about. Below is a link to my review.)

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/classical-music-review-phenom-pianist-yuja-wangs-new-fantasia-cd-is-more-nightmare-than-dream-and-a-waste-of-a-major-keyboard-talent/

YujaWang casual photo

So at my wit’s end, I am putting out a call to all readers:

DO ANY OF YOU HAVE UPDATES ABOUT YUJA WANG?

HAVE YOU HEARD HER PLAY LIVE LATELY?

WHERE IS SHE?

WHAT IS SHE DOING?

WHAT IS PLAYING?

WHAT IS SHE RECORDING?

AND WHAT IS SHE WEARING?

Yuja Wang is far too talented to fall off the radar. So …

The Ear wants to hear.


31 Comments »

  1. Jake, you are right her web site was broken for a while, but now things are up-to-date. You can also follow her on facebook or twitter to see what she is up to. Just saw her perform at Carnegie Hall on Laila Ali’s TV show “All In” this morning; maybe you can look for it on cable somewhere.

    Comment by Peter — November 8, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

  2. I heard her yestarday (January 20, 2014) in Roma, Accademia di Santa Cecilia, playing Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2, with Antonio Pappano conducting.
    She was dressed in a sexy all-black attire, miniskirt and stiletto shoes.
    She was flamboyant, but I am just a listener, not a true expert.
    I think her interpretation was technically perfect, no mistakes, but I expected something more on the side of passion.
    She gave only one “bis” or encore but I am not able to say what she played.

    Comment by Nicola Iannello — January 21, 2014 @ 3:18 am

    • Hi Nicola,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      And thank you for the update on pianist Yuja Wang.
      She should be playing for the general public and the “ordinary” listener, not for the “experts” or critics.
      So what you discern matters and you remarks ring true.
      Best wishes,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — January 21, 2014 @ 5:54 am

  3. I had the pleasure of seeing Yuja Wang today (Nov. 8, 2013) at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. She played the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3. She was mesmerizing, beautiful, arresting and indefinably brilliant. Being only two rows away from her and her interpretation/presentation of Rachmaninoff was one of the most exciting and joyous experiences I’ve ever had.

    Comment by Doug Wild — November 9, 2013 @ 1:42 am

  4. until you two boys actually see and hear her perform live, neither of you is in a position to even have an opinion…

    Comment by terry baer — May 27, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

  5. Jake, could you remove Mr. Baer’s obscene comment. He tried to contact me personally via email and then on the telephone, unbidden and unannounced, to “share” his musical life story. Naturally, I cut the “conversation” short. Print anything that he says about music that is worthy of the Old Family Newspaper standards, and I will blog back at my convenience. MBB

    Comment by Michael BB — April 27, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    • Dear Michael,
      I agree with you completely
      and have done removed his comment.
      Anyone can reply on point
      but must be civil in tone.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 27, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

  6. Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.
    Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this site.

    Comment by recommended reading — April 19, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

    • Jake S. certainly does an excellent job of picking topics, replying to postings, and moderating. 3 cheers for the site! MBB

      Comment by Michael BB — April 19, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

  7. yo jake…at the reception following the april 3 prokofiev 3 performance in chicago, i had the opportunity to tell ms wang that for two-hundred years the modern piano has been waiting for someone and that now the wait is over…that she IS that someone. posted by terry baer

    Comment by terry baer — April 19, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

    • I am always glad when someone is really a fan of a classical or jazz artist. I think your assessment of Ms. Wang’s possible impact on piano playing is overstated, but then that is your right as an enthusiast. I have my own favorites, based on other criteria no doubt, and that is the way things should be. IF we all have our enthusiasms, Music will remain healthy and alive. MBB

      Comment by Michael BB — April 19, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

      • whoever you are, or think you may be, read my comment below regarding the letter i received from gary graffman(which ms wang is now in possession of)…i rather imagine his opinion is somewhat more valid than yours…it is quite a fine statement of both her as a person and as a pianist. i will send you a copy…your address? i am in indiana…a stone’s throw from chicago. terry baer

        Comment by terry baer — April 19, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

      • I do not engage in upping-the-ante for online posts. I am not interested in you trying to convert me or otherwise influence my informed opinion about Ms. Wang or anyone else. I posted what I posted to express myself, not to negate or deny either your expression or your opinion itself. Online postings reflect people. People are all different. Let’s embrace these differences, and know that they invigorate rather than inhibit areas of interest like classical music. If we all lock-stepped in our artistic and cultural sensibilities, many artists would not get the chance to be heard or have influence.
        Now, what I AM saying is that Horowitz has had and will continue to have the influence that you claim Ms. Wang is now having and will have. It will take a lifetime career on her part to make the statement of yours regarding her music anything like applicable. Does this historical perspective make sense? Do you see why I heralded your enthusiasm for its own sake, while reserving judgement on the substance of your position. Mr. Graffman of course has a self-interest in promoting the career of his students. It is nice of him to do so, and if you agree with his assessment, that is great. If I take a longer view, and will wait and see/hear what happens to this woman’s career, music, and pianistic influence, I hope you can see the validity of that approach as well. Moderation online is one of my BIG causes, and so I reply moderately to your posting, while encouraging you to be a Big Fan of What Turns You ON, because I certainly do the same thing. MBB

        Comment by Michael BB — April 19, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

  8. i have a letter from gary graffman in reply to my having written to thank him for taking such good care of her while she was at curtis…he effectively substantiates my belief…i consider his to be the definitive opinion…also, i have heard them all, including kapell…only a young martha argerich begins to compare…i know of what i speak…posted by terry baer

    Comment by terry baer — April 9, 2013 @ 12:02 am

  9. i attended the wednesday and friday performances…daniel burnham, who designed orchestra hall more than a century ago, could not have anticipated that one day the building would need to withstand the force generated by a human solar flare…ms wang is the greatest classical pianist of all time…period. posted by terry baer

    Comment by terry baer — April 8, 2013 @ 8:56 am

    • Hi Terry,
      Thank you so much for your first-hand account.
      What a great and vivid description.
      Except for the best ever part, I tend to trust your judgment.
      Your remarks make me hope Madison books Yuja Wang soon.
      This I want to hear and see in person.
      Cheers!
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 8, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  10. Tonight I saw Yuja at the CSO playing Prokofiev 3. Super and spectacular, including her red mini dress. It appears she now has a tattoo on right thigh. Unfortunately I was several rows back from the stage so I cannot report further on this issue. I much prefer seeing her concerts than Lang Lang.

    Comment by Philip nash — April 7, 2013 @ 12:07 am

    • Hi Philip,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I appreciate your first-hand report — and am reassured by it.
      It seems Ms. Wang’s career is indeed back on track.
      And yes, there is no comparison toLang Lang.
      She wins every time.
      Best,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 7, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  11. I would just like to point out that Yuja Wang has many background similarities to the Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang (for example they both studied with the same teacher before coming to the States). I wonder if their culture and exposure have a connection to both of their declines in popularity? Lang Lang has often been said to be good to hear, but bad to look at. Yuja Wang, on the other hand, is a wonderfully impressive pianist – but clothing choices have interfered with her performances. I notice the criticisms of each have to do with showmanship and behavior toward performances. Both have had early exposures, and I question if it something to do with the background and culture they came from?
    ~Isabella Wu

    Comment by Isabella Wu — April 5, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

    • Lang Lang is a live-action cartoon to watch, yet he can play. Sometimes his phony drama gets in the way of sound musical choices, but not usually. Yuja Wang seems like Natasha Fatale or Naomi Campbell at the keyboard, another ivory/fashion action figure.
      I suppose they just trying to have careers, one cannot fault them for that. We can fault them for making classical music into show-biz, of which we have quite enough already, thank you very much. Let’s all be musicians that are a pleasure to watch, and not distracting and ridiculous so that one has to avert one’s eyes to hear what is really being played, rather than simply soak up the spectacle of sights and sounds that are at odds with each other.
      MBB

      Comment by Michael BB — April 5, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

  12. At the next Verbier Festival Yuja plays chamber music by Brahms (Violin Sonatas with Leonidas Kavakos, the G minor Piano Quartet) and – really sensational – the Mozart Double Concerto with Menahem Pressler. I booked all this and am already looking forward to it.

    In the last weeks she played with Michael Tilson Thomas the 4th concerto of Beethoven. On the web you will find a glowing review.

    Comment by Christoph Müller — April 3, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  13. Hello Jake,

    I read your wondering about Yuja Wang’s where abouts. Well, I am in Europe (Amsterdam) now and just back from Paris and will still be in Amsterdam several more weeks. I have heard her in concerts both in Verbier – A Swiss international music festival in Kanton Valais — and in Amstedam with the Concertgebouw (in mini-skirt!) about two years ago, fantastic performances. Anyway, then it turned out she had a serious thumb problem (according to, I think, reliable sources) and had to leave the stage for a while but now she is back at the concert podium again, performing in Europe (Paris and other places), so it seems she has recovered especially reading about her performing the war horses again!

    Feel free to contact me if you want me to update you about more.

    With best regards,

    ankie foell, concert pianist-lecturer

    Comment by Wesley Foell — March 31, 2013 @ 3:16 am

    • Hi Ankie,
      I hope you are enjoying Europe and that Spring has arrived earlier and warmer there than here!
      Thank you so much for the news about the injured finger and Yuja Wang.
      That explanation makes a lot of sense.
      Murray Perahia has also had recurrent problems with a finger infection, and that certainly cut into his touring schedule and career at times.
      Wang also tends to play the heavier Russian repertoire and the really virtuosic things form Liszt and Brahms, so it seems perfectly plausible to me that there might have been some thumb injury or difficulties.
      You are a terrific reporter!
      Have a safe trip home.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 2, 2013 @ 8:14 am

  14. Well, it is quite true that her website should be updated in terms of news and press, but as someone else has mentioned above, her schedule for 2013 is up-to-date (it was updated some weeks ago). So, taking a look to her schedule, it is quite easy to answer where she is. Her schedule for the next season has not been published on her website, but several of her concerts and recitals for the next season have been already announced and I have collected several of them.
    Concerning her upcoming album release for DG, as it was announced, it was recorded last February in Caracas with Dudamel. She recorded the Prokofiev 2 (not Prokofiev 3) and Rachmaninov 3. The album will be released this December (Yuja told me that in Madrid).

    Comment by Carlos — March 30, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    • Hi Carlos,
      Well, thank you so much for all that information.
      I saw some concert dates on the outdated website, but I have not seen any announcement about her next CD — perhaps an oversight, but I do watch for these things and I am a fan. That is exciting.
      Prokofiev 2 and Rach 3 together … just her kind of repertoire since both are fiendishly difficult.
      I still think things have quieted down a bit, perhaps to add some gravitas to the glitz after all thge earlier PR and controversy.
      But she remains a superb and exciting pianist and musician and that will carry the day.
      “Yuja told me” eh?
      Aren’t you lucky to talk with her in person. Is she a friend on a first-name basis?
      Anything more you know that you can share with us?
      Be well, and thank you again.
      Best
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 30, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

  15. I has to be one of the most difficult tasks in modern media to stay in it, the media, I mean. With news being “new” and continuing events, be they political or artistic, being second tier stories, she is lucky to have anyone at ALL noticing that she has gone a bit missing.
    Long gone are the days when a Horowitz could sit on the sidelines or in the studio, and emerge 12 years later, a bigger star than when he left.
    Valentina Lisitsa seems to be Wang’s main competitor for the classical music piano virtuoso Female Siren of the Decade. They are both fire-breathing piano dragons, with chops, Chops, and more CHOPS. Sometimes they make music, they always make noise, that is for sure.
    Chopin and Beethoven, they attract some players and some listeners, but not all. I’ll wager a digital download of The Ninth Symphony that some career manager-type person is “helping” Ms. Wang choose her music.
    MBB

    Comment by Michael BB — March 30, 2013 @ 10:49 am

    • Hi Michael,
      Wherever and whenever art and PR meet, you will certainly win your bet.
      But a media-centric career will ebb and flow.
      We will all see how she develops.
      Just imagine her talent in her 30s and 40s!
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 30, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  16. Her website has a packed schedule listed for this spring, mostly recitals. She’ll be playing with the Chicago SO next week.

    Comment by Steve Kurr — March 30, 2013 @ 9:52 am

    • Hi Steve,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I saw the recital schedule and knew about Chicago.
      But I am still surprised by how she has fallen out of the media.
      I haven’t seen a story about her in a long time.
      Even finding reviews took some serious searching.
      Perhaps it all just part of the process of maturing as an artist.
      I sure wish she would come to Madison for a recital or concerto appearance so that I could hear her live and decide for myself.
      Thanks again for this and for all the music you make here.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 30, 2013 @ 10:36 am

  17. It seems that Yuja has been doing quite well lately. She has been rocking a hot red (long) dress and a cobalt blue dress along with an assortment of shorter, more controversial dresses.

    Here are some links of some of her more recent performances:

    At el Museo Reina Sofía: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=yuja+wang+piano&filters=month&lclk=month

    A recent recording of her playing Rach 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEdiAcu6sHQ

    She seems to be doing fairly well still although I believe some of her raw youthfulness which has sold out concert halls for many years now is not having quite the same affect on audiences (or critics). I think that people are searching for some more depth and maturity in her playing, maturity that might be evident but that is masked by her clothing choices which still throw many people off.

    Her repertoire is expanding, she has started to include some Faure, and the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Sonata seems to be a new favorite of hers although she holds tight to her Scriabin selections and Schubert-Liszt Transcriptions. Despite an interview where she promised never to play Bach or Beethoven because she doesn’t feel that she understands them emotionally, she recently began playing the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata I believe. Personally, I would love to hear her play more Chopin. She plays one of the more famous waltzes quite frequently for encores but she hasn’t play a substantial work of his other than his second piano sonata in a very long time. I feel like some ballades or scherzi are needed…

    Although I wish I could hear deeper repertoire from hear, I can respect that she knows her emotional limits. Still, she is an artist and it is time for some late Beethoven, Schubert sonatas, Brahms (other than Paganini Variations), Schumann, etc.

    Hoped this started to help patch up the gaping hole of “Where is Yuja Wang?”

    P.S. I am anxious to see what kind of CD she turns out next. Her Rach 3 needs to be recorded officially and so do the Prokofiev ( her rendition of the second concerto is spectacular at the Verbier festival).

    -Emily

    Comment by Emily B. — March 30, 2013 @ 12:30 am

    • Hi Emily,
      Thank you so much for reading and replying with details and links.
      This is all excellent news to hear.
      And I suspect your assessment of Yuja Wang’s career is going and hpw she is being received by the public and the critics is true.
      Thank you very much.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 30, 2013 @ 5:43 am


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