Acclaimed pianist Yuja Wang discusses repertoire, traveling ahead of Hill Auditorium concert
The remarkable young pianist returns to Hill next Sunday afternoon, courtesy of the University Musical Society, for another recital, one that has two composers—Ravel and Scriabin—in common with her last appearance here, as well as lots that are new. In addition to Ravel (“Alborada del gracioso”), she offers two other Spanish-themed pieces, Debussy’s “Soiree dans Grenade” and Albeniz’s “Triana.” Beyond Scriabin (preludes, an etude and the Sonata No. 5), she offers a Beethoven sonata (Op. 27, No. 1, the first of the two “fantasy sonatas”) and a set of Rachmaninoff etudes-tableaux and the Elegie, Op. 3, No. 1.
Wang took a few moments from her daunting, globe-trotting schedule to talk via e-mail about her program and career.
Q. Could you talk about the program you are playing in Ann Arbor—what connection do you see among the pieces you’ve chosen?
A. There isn't really a theme except that these are shorter pieces, but with great intensity, either a depiction of a story (like the Rach Op. 39, No. 6) or an evocation of certain place (Granada). And I am really looking forward to play Beethoven, and Scriabin, pieces that take oneself straight to the soul and mirror one's own inner place.
Q. Have you listened to any of the recordings Rachmaninoff made of the pieces you’re playing, or to the recording of Debussy playing “La soiree dans Grenade”? If so, what do you take from them?
A. I didn’t hear that particular piece, but listening to his playing is like drinking fresh spring water for the mind—the purification satisfies.
Q. What interests you most at the piano now, either in terms of repertoire or approach to repertoire? How does this differ (if it does) from, say, a few years back?A. In terms of both, it’s an organic growth. I'm not really seeing much difference. But I'm allowing time to let nature do the miracle. (Unless if it’s ripe, then I have to preserve it so it’s not rotten.)
Q. How do you cope with your heavy travel/concert schedule? Do you see it as an up-side or a down-side of your career? Favorite halls? Favorite places?
A. The fast-changing pace is indeed exciting, but sometime it’s easy to forget who I am or what this is really all about. Favorite halls: not to be a sycophant, but I do love the Hill Auditorium. And any place that's contrary to my last, quaint, works for my mood at the moment, I like.
Q. What do you like to do for recreation when you’re not practicing or performing?
A. Carrying my suitcase and running around airports.
Q. Do you have favorite pianists to listen to? Whom do you turn to for advice and an “ear?”
A. Love Rachmaninoff and Horowitz. With the traveling it’s hard to have an ear regularly except my inner ear.
Q. I’m curious if you have an opinion on Anthony Tommasini’s contention, in a New York Times article, that the level of technique among young pianists (yourself included) has increased exponentially. If you agree, what do you attribute it to?
A. I have heard that since when I was 9, it really isn't a new concept. People in the next generation will keep impressing audience with what they could do, like getting a new Guinness record in sports. But is that what concerts are about?
Listen to Wang play Scriabin: