. Interchanging Idioms: Interview with Yuja Wang

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Interview with Yuja Wang

Yuja Wang travels about the world performing concerts and recitals, so catching up with her for an interview is pretty difficult. However, in the midst of all this she was able to spare some time to answer a few questions. I found her answers illuminating and I hope you do too.

Q: You seem to be equally at home with Chopin as with Scriabin or Ligeti. You also perform everything from Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff to Brahms and Scarlatti. Is there a composer you resonate with the most right now? Who is it and what about their music do you most enjoy?

A: Right now I’m enjoying listening to Schubert lieder. It goes straight to the heart. As for playing, I have to say that I’m promiscuous when it comes to composers. I love them all.

This is great to hear since I'm hoping Ms Wang will consider one of my compositions someday.

Q: Is there a living composer you find intriguing, someone you'd like to write a piano piece for you to premiere?

A: Sofia Gubaidulina. Her violin concerto is so intense and spiritual. But I’ve yet to look at her piano repertoire.

Q: In terms of piano technique, what sort of music do you most enjoy playing? Music with lots of finger work, or is a melody more interesting?

A: I enjoy playing whatever I find interesting -- something magnetic will grasp me, whether it’s a haunting melody, beautiful harmony or just sheer savage wildness.

Q: Numerous composers have written piano preludes, however these don't tend to be concert pieces (like Sonatas and Concertos). Whose preludes do you find most enjoyable to play - and why?

A: I think preludes are great in recital. Chopin is unbeatable and Scriabin is out of this world.

Q: Do you ever play the piano to relax? If so, when you are not traveling, or preparing a piece for an upcoming performance, whose music do you like to "relax" to?

A: When I relax I don't play the piano. I don't even let the thought of piano come to mind :) But I do listen to music -- a lot. Non-classical too.

Cool... I think it's great when performers don't lock themselves into one genre... I'd like to talk more about what type of music you like. So, What sort of music do you listen to when you're not playing?

A: I listen to symphonies, opera, jazz and tango. And Sting and Jeff Buckley.

Q: It's been 7 years since you won the Aspen Music Festival's Concerto Competition and moved to the US. Have you become accustomed to life in the US, or do you travel so much that "home" is more a suitcase and hotel suite rather than any single location?

A. I think I naturally became “Americanized” living here while I was training and going to school at Curtis. But now it does mostly seem like my home is the airport, a hotel, or a concert hall. As long as I have a piano, my suitcase and a bed, I am home. But my shelter, the place I return to, is New York.

My daughter's home is New York, even though she's living in Edinburgh right now. Although, how do you keep practiced while traveling so much?

A: It’s tough. And I’m constantly trying to figure out where and when I can practice, though it helps that much of my work is mental. Still, I like to practice about three hours a day at the piano.

Q: Performing in so many different venues, you have to perfect your playing on a variety of different pianos. Is there one in particular that you found enjoyable, or a concert you can remember particularly fun? If so, why...

A. There are so many variables in concerts -- not just the piano, but the acoustics, the audience, my mood, weather, and -- in the performance of a concerto -- the energy you get from the orchestra. It’s too hard to single out one particular performance that I found enjoyable, but I find I work well in high pressure concerts, and usually the only regret I have is that it went by too fast.

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