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Yuja Wang

Yuja WangYuja Wang, born on February 10th, 1987 in Beijing, China is concert pianist with a repertoire which ranges from Mozart to Gershwin and beyond.

'Charismatic', 'breathtaking', 'flawless' and 'heartfelt' are just a selection of the superlatives used to describe her musical ability. 'Sexy', 'beautiful', and 'gorgeous' are a few superlatives that can be used to describe her appearance on the stage.

Wang was born in Beijing, China and there encouraged to make music at a young age by her dancer mother and percussionist father, which served as the catalyst for the never-ending thirst for knowledge that has sustained her continued musical development.

She began piano lessons at the age of six, and her progress was accelerated by studies at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. In 1999 she moved to Canada to participate in the Morningside Music summer programme at Calgary's Mount Royal College, and thereafter enrolled as the youngest ever student at Mount Royal Conservatory.

Wang's exceptional gifts were widely recognised in 2001 with her appointment as a Steinway Artist, and again the following year when she was offered a place at the city of Philadelphia's prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Gary Graffman.

By the time Yuja graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2008, she had already gained momentum following the spectacular success of her debut three years earlier with the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa.

Wang attracted widespread international attention in March 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich on short notice in performances of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and within the span of just a few seasons she was working with conductors of the highest calibre.

Yuja WangOver the past decade of her career, she has worked with such pre-eminent Maestros as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel, Valery Gergiev, Michael Tilson Thomas, Antonio Pappano, Charles Dutoit, and Zubin Mehta.

Her singular blend of technical prowess, keen musical insight, and emotional depth have established Yuja Wang as one of the world's finest performers.

Her 2017-18 season featured recitals, concert series, and extensive tours with some of the world's most acclaimed ensembles and conductors.

She began the summer of 2017 on tour with the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas and a programme featuring Brahms' Piano Concerto No.2, followed by a performance of the first concerto at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Lionel Bringuier.

Later engagements included concerts with the Munich Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev, a series of performances at the Verbier Festival, and a three-city German tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

She also embarked on play-conduct tours with two of the best chamber orchestras in the world - Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of Europe, as well as joining the inaugural tour of Jaap van Zweden with the New York Philharmonic and the final tour of Yannick Nézet-Séguin's directorship with the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

Other notable appearances included concerts in Hong Kong, Miami, Washington D.C., Prague, Tel Aviv, and Berlin.

Winter of 2017 saw Yuja reunite with violinist and frequent collaborator Leonidas Kavakos for a European chamber tour, while in the spring of 2018, she will embark on a recital tour at premiere venues in the US and Europe - New York City, San Francisco, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and others.

Yuja WangAs part of its commitment to the arts, Rolex chose Yuja Wang as one of its cultural ambassadors in 2009 - a distinction she holds to this day.

She has been described by the New York Times as "one of the best young pianists around" and hailed by the Sydney Morning Herald for her "blistering technique."

In July of 2015 the Los Angeles Times said: "Hers is a nonchalant, brilliant keyboard virtuosity that would have made both Prokofiev (who was a great pianist) and even the fabled Horowitz jealous."

This combination of critical acclaim, audience ovations, return engagements at leading international venues, and an exclusive recording relationship with Deutsche Grammophon confirm Yuja Wang's status as one of this century’s most compelling and engaging artists.

Wang's way of making music connects with a strikingly broad demographic. It appeals to everyone, from classical music newcomers to devoted piano-music fanatics, as well as attracting an exceptionally youthful following.

Her love for fashion, recognised by her induction into Giorgio Armani's Sì Women's Circle, has also contributed to the popular appeal of an artist who is armed with the ability to challenge the status quo and to welcome fresh converts to the concert hall.

After having begun piano lessons at the age of six her progress was accelerated by studies at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music.

Yuja WangIn 1999 she moved to Canada to participate in the Morningside Music summer programme at Calgary's Mount Royal College, and shortly thereafter enrolled as the youngest ever student at Mount Royal Conservatory.

Wang's exceptional gifts were widely recognised in 2001 with her appointment as a Steinway Artist, and again in the following year when she was offered a place at Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Gary Graffman.

By the time Yuja graduated from Curtis in 2008, she had already gained momentum following the spectacular success of her debut three years earlier with the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa.

Wang attracted widespread international attention in March 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich on short notice in performances of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra - and within the span of just a few seasons she was working with conductors of the highest calibre.

Over the past decade of her career, she has worked with such pre-eminent Maestros as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel, Valery Gergiev, Michael Tilson Thomas, Antonio Pappano, Charles Dutoit, and Zubin Mehta.

In January of 2009, she became an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon recording artist. Her debut album, Sonatas & Etudes, prompted Gramophone to name her as its 2009 Young Artist of the Year.

Her 2011 release of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and Paganini's Rhapsody with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Claudio Abbado was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category.

Yuja WangSubsequent releases for the label include Fantasia, an album of encore pieces by Albéniz, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Saint-Saëns, Scriabin, and others; a live recording of Prokofiev's Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, and an acclaimed coupling of Ravel's two piano concerti with Fauré’s Ballade, recorded with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and Lionel Bringuier.

Reviewers around the world have documented the full range of Wang's work, capturing the essence of her musicianship and observing the development of an artist blessed with consummate technical abilities, an inexhaustible creative imagination, and an unmatched artistry.

There are two Yuja Wangs. Or so you might think - and no, she does not have a split personality.

One part of her is the young Chinese pianist whose virtuosity and musical intelligence place her in the top echelon of performers.

The other part is a diminuitive, spike-haired fashion icon - one courted by Armani and Rolex, who has a good sense of humor and enjoys appearing on stage before her concert audiences in short dresses and tall high-heeled shoes.

"I want to relate all life to music."

"I'm interested in looking good, but fashion bores me - So, rather than following textbook behaviour and doing what classical musicians have always done... oh this is all philosophical bullshit!" The point made is that she is not the typical classical artist.

"I'm still exploring my repertoire." She likes mixing things up a bit and finds that it does not upset audiences, but that it gets more encores.

For Wang, encores are integral, not add-ons. "It's when I feel free, I move more, I improvise."

Yuja WangThe rest of the time in her concerts she is upright, graceful, like a dancer or gymnast. She doesn’t admit to doing exercise – "Run? I hve never run in my life" – but she did learn stretches from her dancer mother.

"She taught me good posture. My father, a percussionist, sorted out timing and rhythm."

She had been in Florence the day before in a church, dressed in short casual yoga pants as she was wearing during the interview, having a little quiet spiritual moment to herself.

"Then this man taps me on the shoulder and says I'm being disrespectful to Jesus."

When asked if she covered herself up her answer was: "No way. I don't know if he understood what I said to him, but I guess everyone knows the F-word."

Wang started the piano at age six and gave her first concert less than a year later. Was she immediately recognised as a prodigy?

"Yeah, I guess so."

At 14 years of age she left China - she was alone and did not speak any English. She went to study first in Canada then to the Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia and has lived in the US ever since.

"It was right for me. I am independent-minded and self-reliant."

Yuja WangWith the guidance of various mentors, including the pianists Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman, she immersed herself in the great European piano tradition with heroes like Kempff, Schnabel, Horowitz, Maurizio Pollini and Evgeny Kissin.

When, in 2007, Martha Argerich cancelled a concerto date, Wang stepped in and got her big break.

Russian repertoire is core to her programming – music she often heard as a child, when her mother danced.

"I love Pappano. So intense. So impassioned and sexy. And such a brilliant pianist himself!"

She has no reverential tone for discussing music, no angst about saying or doing the right thing.

"I'm Chinese". she says.

"We don't do guilt. We do zen."

She once told a Chinese TV presenter that she wanted to study Taoism. He expressed surprise that a young woman should want to tackle this hard philosophy. He'd even heard she had read Goethe's Faust.

"It's probably because I'm an Aquarius, open to everything." she replied with a charming smile, offering an offhand answer as cleverly banal as the question deserved. She is quite fierce.

Brahms is her latest passion. "With Brahms, you need to feel grounded, as if the power comes up from your feet and the keyboard becomes an extension of your hands."

Yuja Wang"Richter, I think, used to say he played from his thighs."

Now imagine Richter covered by his baggy trousers - Wang's are usually bare and exposed in a short skirt.

An article in the New Yorker referred to her "extremely short and tight dresses that ride up as she plays, or her clinging backless gowns that give an impression of near-nakedness."

The next day at her Paris concert, she changed after the interval from a gold gown into a tiny twist of shimmering green. Each was exquisite, and – at least from row Q – completely decent.

Compared to a female tennis player she looked positively overdressed. What sticks most in the mind is the poetry and mastery in her performance of the Chopin Preludes.

"If a beautiful male pianist wears tight pants, I'm not going to think, 'What's in those pants'?"

Really? you're not, Yuja?

"Well OK, maybe. But if the music is beautiful and sensual, why not dress to fit? It's about power and persuasion. Perhaps it's a little sadomasochistic of me. But if I'm going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable while I'm at it."

Yuja Wang may be running out of challenges. The piano virtuoso has spent most of her life sitting in front of the piano, and much of that at the art's highest level.

Yuja WangLast year, she conquered the Mount Everest of classical music—Beethoven's “Hammerklavier” sonata, considered the most difficult solo piano piece ever written—allowing her to venture into something completely new this fall: play conducting with two orchestras.

"I'm going to play Beethoven with them, in front of the piano, without a baton, but conducting them while playing," she says. "It's certainly another territory, but that's what's fun about being a pianist: There's endless opportunities to explore, and you never know where it leads you."

"My dad is a percussionist, and my mom is a dancer. Their piano was actually a wedding gift. It was just sitting there, so I tried it like a big toy. It all started with having fun."

"I was very lucky because my parents had no expectations for me, and I think that's why I always viewed playing as something fun and not something I had to do."

"I left home at 14 years of age and got into this amazing school, the Curtis Institute of Music, and just decided to stay. I was not scared at all. At that age the biggest dream is actually to leave home without any parental control. So that's exactly what I wanted, and it was good training for me to be independent."

One publication called me a 28-year-old prodigy, which is an oxymoron. I do think there's a connection between being a musician and being very childlike—like we never really grow up—we just look at everything creatively with a fresh mind."

"It's crucial to take vacations. Yes, it's good to practice every day and sometimes the more you practice—if you're inspired, of course—the better you get. But also some days, the more you practice, the worse you get. And I concertize so much, so for me it's always a balance."

Yuja Wang"I have a new rule which is performing with the whole audience in the dark. I had really bad eyesight until age 20, and then I remember after I had laser surgery, I could see everyone's face and that really freaked me out. I realized that the more unaware of the surroundings I am, the better I play."

"I think the whole thing is a challenge. As musicians, we devote our lives to one thing. But I feel like there's joy of sacrificing as well. I think sacrificing is what brings meaning to life. Otherwise, if it were just joy, I'd get bored."

"People always ask which brand I’m wearing. Performing is not about brands. It's about how the cloth actually feels on the body and what it does, especially on stage. I always wear solid colors because color affects the mood; the first thing that impacts people in a live concert is visual. And I also wear something that gives me confidence to be myself."

"Being a musician is mental, emotional, and physical, and I really admire what athletes do: not drinking, sleeping—all those things which, in my 20s, would seem so boring.

But if we think about longevity of any career, it is totally that: to not just have the instant gratification, but rather to think ahead. I don't have anything that I want to achieve but that doesn't mean I don't have any goals in what I do artistically. There's always something higher to strive for." - excerpts from elle.com

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