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18 April 2018

Yuja Wang - Without courage, there is no music

von Charlotte Brouard-Tartarin

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 & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
  • Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra Yuja Wang & Mahler Chamber Orchestra
photos: Geoffroy Schied

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.

Concerts