Yuja Wang never fails to be unpredictable, she delights in developing her unique career rather than following the bandwagon. The young Chinese pianist is quite simply an artist who is at ease in the twentyfirst century. Yuja Wang’s year as Artist in residence at the Luxembourg Philharmonie in 2018/19 will reflect the person she is: original and full of vitality.
A child prodigy, she hails from a family of musicians and was fourteen when she left her native China, initially settling in Canada before moving to the United States. Like her compatriot Lang Lang before her, she studied with Gary Graffman at Philadelphia’s famous Curtis Institute of Music. Her talent was recognized even before she had graduated, and she came to international attention in March 2007, when she replaced Martha Argerich at short notice. There followed a succession of prestigious musical partnerships, triumphant tours and critically acclaimed recordings.
Yuja Wang is at ease in a vast repertory for her instrument: concertos, sonatas and chamber works ranging from Bach to Stravinsky and taking in Brahms, Albéniz, Gershwin and Fauré, to name but a few. And keen to embrace new experiences, she is not afraid of even the greatest challenges: in November 2017, for example, she conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for the first time from the keyboard.
«Here is a sensitive musician who knows what it means to modulate a phrase, an artist who inhabits the world of musical sounds and whose palette, especially in terms of the barely perceptible, is little short of stupefying.» (Le Monde)
Yuja Wang’s first concert as Artist in residence involves a line-up not previously seen at the Philharmonie, when she will be appearing alongside four percussionists, two of whom are Grubingers, father and son. Together they will perform vibrant transcriptions of two major twentieth-century works. In early 2019, Yuja Wang will return with two very different and even unexpected partners, the irresistible Igudesman & Joo, perhaps the most famous comic partnership in classical music today. This will be an evening full of surprises, the kind of which the duo are past masters. There is no doubt that Yuja Wang’s spontaneity and virtuosity will make a charming blend with the musical wit of her two accomplices.
While Yuja Wang’s next appearance is n a traditional concert, it will be no less exceptional, not least because the programme includes the Piano Concerto N° 5 of Sergei Prokofiev, a composer who is one of the pianist’s favourites. She has no hesitation in claiming a profound affinity with the Russian composer, whose «sarcasm and rebelliousness» she singles out for special mention. Her final concert features a piece by another Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich, and his Piano Concerto N° 2, which Shostakovich wrote for his son. In the same programme, she will also perform Ravel’s colourful Concerto for the Left Hand together with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg under its musical director Gustavo Gimeno. The season will end with a tour that will take pianist, conductor and orchestra to perform throughout Germany, Turkey and other countries.
What would excellence be without curiosity? Each of Yuja Wang’s appearances as a pianist seems to offer an answer to this question, and her concerts at the Luxembourg Philharmonie will surely be no exception.
Yuja Wang has chosen two unusual partners to embark upon her residency at the Philharmonie Luxembourg on February 3. Together with the pianist, Igudesman & Joo, the two irresistible comedians of classic music, will provide an explosion of side-splitting surprises. For «The Clone», Wang turns herself into a technically unique music machine which can play absolutely everything with unbelievable precision. But watch out once she is set loose…! When Yuja Wang’s virtuosity and spontaneity meet with the breakneck humour of the two comedians, you might laugh so hard you cry…
In recent years, pianist Yuja Wang has taken a special interest in Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos. On May 23 she will play the relatively rarely-heard Fifth Piano Concerto, accompanied by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under its Lithuanian chief conductor Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla. There are reminiscences in the work of Igor Stravinsky’s neoclassic style, but also of ancient Russian folklore motifs. Against this background, the combination with Stravinsky’s ballet music Firebird makes particular sense. György Ligeti’s Concert Românesc was also inspired by folk music. At the time, the Romanian cultural authorities took offense at some of his dissonant stylistic means, so that the work’s premiere was cancelled and could not be performed until twenty years later.
It is a sporting challenge the Chinese pianist Yuja Wang rises to in this concert: two Piano Concerti in one evening, both chock-full of technical difficulties. Ravel’s Concerto from the early 1930s was written for the virtuoso Paul Wittgenstein, who had been injured in World War I. Shostakovich wrote his Piano Concerto N° 2 in 1957 as a birthday present for his son Maxim. This Franco-Russian double is also reflected in the works bookending the piano concerti: these works by Tchaikovsky and Ravel seek out landscapes described by the writers Shakespeare and Longus: a tossed magical island and an idyllic Greece peopled by shepherds and shepherdesses.