Pianist Wang brings her intensity back to Heinz Hall
By Mark Kanny
Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 7:07 p.m.
Yuja Wang is almost never home. The young Chinese pianist has a nice apartment, complete with an 1890 Hamburg Steinway grand piano, only three blocks from Lincoln Center in New York City. But she spends most of her time on the road, playing more than 100 concerts a year all over the world.
“I live a very high-intensity lifestyle. I haven't been home since March,” Wang says. “At least, it's not boring, in a sense.”
Pittsburgh music lovers understand why she's so in demand from her previous Heinz Hall appearances: remarkable performances of Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Sergei Rachmaninoff's “Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini.”
Wang will be the soloist when Manfred Honeck leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in concerts June 7 to 9 at Heinz Hall, Downtown. The program is Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.
“Every time I've played (the Tchaikovsky First concerto), it's been very significant, a big event in my life,” she says. “I played it at the Hollywood Bowl with (Gustavo) Dudamel. I always work hard at the concerto. It's pianistic. The music just kind of flows out. I love the Tchaikovsky because it's so beautiful.”
Wang's excellence in Russian repertoire is no accident. Her teachers at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, her hometown, had all studied in Russia, which has a tradition of great piano pedagogy.
She studied for a year in Canada when she was 14 and, a year later, enrolled at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where she studied with Gary Graffman. He was an important American pianist who recorded all three of Tchaikovsky's piano concertos, the First with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.
“He's more like a performer than a pedagogue,” Wang says. “He has amazing insights from his experiences rather than just teaching playing. That was very useful. He's also such a lovely person that it's great to learn with him. You just want to learn your stuff, very good motivation.”
Although Wang loves the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, she admits she has “a history” with it.
“I refused to play it because everyone plays it and I heard it all the time when I was young. But when I was 19, I had a concert with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and Yuri Temirkanov, one of my favorite conductors, and they would only take Tchaikovsky No. 1.”
Honeck is looking forward to working with Wang again, after their first collaboration on Rachmaninoff. He calls her a wonderful artist and is glad she will be part of the orchestra's late-summer European Festivals Tour.
He's also keen to conduct Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 again, a work that also will be featured on the tour.
When Shostakovich wrote the symphony in 1937, he was in hot water with Communist officials. He wrote it in such a way that the symphony could be labeled an artist's reply to just criticism. But, after publication of his memoirs, titled “Testimony,” his true feelings were revealed. The finale, for example, is not a glorification of the Soviet state; it is a celebration at the point of a bayonet.
“In Shostakovich's music, there is always something in the background,” Honeck says. “You can never trust that what he wrote doesn't have a second or third meaning. The question for me is should we go with what is written, the official face, or go for what is underneath. In my opinion, it makes more sense for me that, if Shostakovich wanted to hide something, then it's better to lift the curtain and be open to the things which he really wanted to say.”
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates make inquiry into former Cy Young winner Johan Santana
- Police: Driver fell unconscious before Seton Hill bus crash
- McCutchen proposes to girlfriend on DeGeneres show
- Jeannette man accused in assault with tire iron
- Pittsburgh grand jury indicts Florida man for investment fraud
- Theft charges added against Penn Hills father, son accused in TV converter box scheme
- Water line break closes Mt. Lebanon High School for Thursday
- Starkey: NHL stuck in stone age
- Steelers defense’s rapid decline looks similar to that of Steel Curtain’s
- Credit card companies offer free credit scores
- For the rest of us: Festivus pole put up at Florida Capitol