Interview the Sensational Pianist Yuja Wang

By Ka Yee Chan

It was an honor to meet and interview the young, talented, and charming Yuja Wang on Wednesday afternoon (March 13) at the Universal Music Classics.

If you didn’t already know, Yuja Wang is a Chinese classical artist. Wang was born in Beijing in 1987, and is only 27 years old. Although she is young, she has already won many awards, such as the 2006 Gilmore Young Artist Award, 2009 Gramophone Classic FM’s Young Artist of the Year, 2010 Avery Fisher Career Grant Recipient, and 2011 Echo Klassik Young Artist of the Year. She has also collaborated with most of the leading orchestras of North America, the UK, Europe, Israel, Japan, China and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Wang performed with well-known conductors: Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev, Lorin Maazel, Sir Neville Marriner, Zubin Mehta, Yannick Nezel-Seguin, Sir Antonio Pappano, Yuri Temirkanov, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Pinchas Zukerman.

Q: As a pianist, what recommendations do you have for these children in China who are learning piano. How would they also become successful in their music?

YW: Everyone’s life is different; it’s very hard for me to recommend anything. For me, I learn with interest. I am very passionate and curious. Not only in music/piano. Being interested is very important. You have to love what you do.

Q: How do you organize your practice time. What do you practice?

YW: Music, techniques, basics…being creative and the desire of wanting to play…everything is included. Because now that my schedule is very full, rehearsal time is time for practice. New songs will be practiced on days off, starting from understanding the music itself.

Q: What is the reason for the choice of the two songs on the CD?

YW: Both of the songs are highly challenging songs…from music and physically…I really love them. I have confidence, because I have been performing these two songs with other maestros several times. It is a live recording, so it is important that I know the songs from the back of my head.

Q: How is collaborating with Gustavo Dudamel? He is a relatively young conductor. Is that a reason why you like collaborating with him?

YW: I did collaborate with even younger conductors as well, but Dudamel has this energy…I don’t know…this is the first time for the orchestra to collaborate with a soloist to do a live recording. There wasn’t a need for a conductor meeting; where Dudamel and I have a connection/understanding of each other and the orchestra.

Q: Other than piano, do you have other hobbies?

YW: I like being on flights…just kidding, that’s necessary. I like watching movies, reading books…that will also inspire me, and learn about life. I do have a lot of hobbies, but now it’s too busy.

Q: In the world, there is very traditional classical music. How do you bring modernity/yourself to this tradition?

YW: Music to me is the most important thing in life. When I play I put my personalities in it…also because I am 27 now, my thoughts are very modern. There is no black and white…like basic and techniques, traditional and modern, to me, my view is a balance of all. Tradition to me is very important.

Q: Knowing that music is the most important thing in your life, but if it wasn’t an opportunity or a choice, what do you think you would be doing?

YW: Probably still something creative; architect, designer, painter…but definitely nothing to do with athletics; no dancing, no gymnastics, no Olympics.

Q: Since you travel a lot, do you have a favorite city? And do you get your inspirations from these cities?

YW: I like a lot of places; this time I really like London, Paris…for music inspirations definitely Vienna and Paris. Different places give me different inspirations. This time, I went to India for one day. They don’t have Prada, or Apple store but definitely a very inspirational place with their strong culture. I think I can feel like being home everywhere.

Q: Are there any influences of being Chinese? If yes, is it good?

YW: It is very good. Especially now. As a Chinese…I don’t perform that much in China, mostly in America and Europe. I would be very busy and working into Asia. I am just really happy that I had learned Chinese when I was young. I didn’t spend a lot of time in China, but I learned Chinese History, and it’s still very influential in my life. I really like Hong Kong, because it is a combination of both, western and eastern cultures.

Q: You mentioned that this is the first time in 14 years, you are with your parents in New York, can you tell us about your parents? Your mother is a dancer and now a choreographer. How did you get involved with music and decided to focus in piano?

YW: Piano was a wedding gift for my parents when they were married, so the piano was there since I was born. My mother taught me how to read notes even before I properly learned music. Piano is not necessarily my favorite, but I am into music. But piano is something I can use to express. At first, my mother wanted me to learn how to dance, calligraphy, and gymnastics as hobbies. My parents are open-minded; they gave a lot of options. I chose piano…it’s easier, I can sit. Even if I weren’t playing piano, I would listen to music, because it fulfills my life.

Yuja Wang had a very packed year in 2013, and also set performances and collaborations for this year 2014. Just this past Monday, Wang performed with Gustavo Dudamel at the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Her most recent CD is a live recording under Gustavo Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The CD composed of Sergei Rachmaninov: piano concerto No.3 in D minor, and Sergei Prokofiev: piano concerto No.2 in G minor. Wang also collaborated with other leading artists at major international summer festival. The most notable is with violinist Leonidas Kavakos. In this April, Wang and Kavakos will embark on a further series of Brahms recitals in major European cities, which includes Luxembourg, Munich, Hamburg, Berlin and Paris. Please stay tuned for Wang’s 2014 tours if you want to meet the exciting, charming, powerful, and intelligent Yuja Wang.

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