Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Impossibly Talented

There are some instruments that are not possible for humans to play, in this old Knight's view. The piano is one: oddly, as so many people can tinkle the ivories. Well, not ivory anymore since elephant tusks became off-limits. But to play the piano 'Well' requires the pianist being played. Lord know by what.

I don't play any instruments at all. All are beyond my skills. I engage troubadore Knights for that sort of thing. Or... as here... attract the very best artistes.

There are words that descibe that peculiar state that musicians can attain. The 'Muse' is within them. And another, 'Enthusiasm'. That can be translated as 'En-Theos'. Being Imbued with the Spirit that is not of this world: Divine. Angelic.  Something reaches out from deep inside and takes over to allow the pianist to do what is not actually possible in a neurological sense. Fingers can move so fast in so complex arrangements of notes. But the action potentials that whizz around in our brains just do not travel that fast. No-one knows just how it is done.

Sometimes, for ordinary folk, a great deal of practice can tempt the Angel out. Sometimes though the angel is there right from the start and a kiddie simply grows around it. These are extraordinary folk. Prodigies.

But we had a demonstration in the Tavern this evening by a passing musician who stopped by on her way to yet another concert where she will 'wow' audiences and recieve yet more prizes. This lady is 'taken' by an Angel whenever she sits to play. 

And what a kissable lady she is too. 

Yuja Wang.

She treated us to some of her ivory tinkling.  Customers downed much sherbet and got liszt.

Yuja Wang comes from a musical family. Her mother, Zhai Jieming, is a dancer and her father, Wang Jianguo, is a percussionist. Both live in Beijing.
Yuja began studying piano at age 6. At age 7, she began three years' study at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. At 11, Wang entered the Morningside Music Bridge International Music Festival (at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta), as the festival's youngest student.

Here she is at 9 y/o.

At age 15, young Miss Wang entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied for five years with Gary Graffman and graduated in 2008. Graffman said that Wang's technique impressed him during her audition, but "it was the intelligence and good taste" of her interpretations that distinguished her.  

In 1998, Yuja won third prize in the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists in Ettlingen, Germany. 

In 2001, she won third prize and the special jury prize (awarded to an especially superior finalist of less than 20 years in age, prize money of 500,000 Japanese Yen) in the piano section at the first Sendai International Music Competition in Sendai, Japan.

In 2002, she won the Aspen Music Festival's concerto competition.
In 2003, Yuja made her European debut with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Switzerland, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 under the baton of David Zinman. She made her North American debut in Ottawa in the 2005/06 season, replacing Radu Lupu performing that Beethoven concerto with Pinchas Zukerman conducting.

On September 11, 2005, Yuja was named a 2006 biennial Gilmore Young Artist Award winner, given to the most promising pianists age 22 and younger. As part of the award, she received $15,000, appeared at Gilmore Festival concerts, and had a new piano work commissioned for her.

But look. Such talent and excellence does not come without a LOT of work. 

 Here her mentor tells and she shows.

In 2006, Yuja made her New York Philharmonic debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival. The following season, she performed with the orchestra under Lorin Maazel during the Philharmonic's tour of Japan and Korea.

In March 2007, Miss Wang's breakthrough came when she replaced Martha Argerich in concerts held in Boston. Argerich had cancelled her appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on four subscription concerts from March 8 to 13. Wang performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Charles Dutoit conducting.

Let her tell you a little more in her own words.

In 2008, Yuja toured the U.S. with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields led by Sir Neville Marriner. In 2009, she performed as a soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, led by Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall. She performed with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado in Beijing, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Spain and in London, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 2009, Yuja Wang performed and recorded Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G Minor with Kurt Masur at the Verbier Festival. Her performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" is featured on the Verbier Festival highlights DVD from 2008. Wang's "Bumblebee" video has been viewed more than 4.5 million times on YouTube.

In 2012, Wang toured with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Zubin Mehta in Israel and the U.S., with a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York in September and she toured Asia in November 2012 with the San Francisco Symphony and its conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

You can see why it has taken her a while to get to the Tavern !

In February 2013, she performed and recorded Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 and Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 with Conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Venezuelan Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. Also in 2013, Wang's recital tour of Japan culminated with her recital debut at Tokyo's Suntory Hall.

Wang made her Berlin Philharmonic debut in May 2015, performing Sergei Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto with Conductor Paavo Järvi. The performance was broadcast live through the orchestra's Digital Concert Hall.

In a departure from her previously predominantly Russian repertoire, she played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9, the Jeunehomme, in February 2016 at David Geffen Hall in New York on four successive nights with Charles Dutoit conducting, then, in her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev in Munich and Paris. In March 2016, Wang played for three nights in Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. In a recital at Carnegie hall in May 2016, she played Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29, the Hammerklavier, and two Brahms Ballades and Robert Schumann's Kreisleriana.

As of 2013, Wang has performed with many orchestras, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, in the U.S. Internationally, she has performed with the Staatskapelle Berlin, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, China Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra Mozart and Santa Cecilia.

In May 2016, The New York Times reviewed her performance of Beethoven's formidable Hammerklavier Sonata:
Ms. Wang’s virtuosity goes well beyond uncanny facility. Right through this Beethoven performance she wondrously brought out intricate details, inner voices and harmonic colorings. The first movement had élan and daring. The scherzo skipped along with mischievousness and rhythmic bite. In the grave, great slow movement, she played with restraint and poignancy. She kept you on edge during the elusive transition to the gnarly, dense fugue, which she then dispatched with unfathomable dexterity. This was not a probing or profound “Hammerklavier.” But I admired Ms. Wang’s combination of youthful energy and musical integrity.

Yuja can play the Tavern and have her Angel play her, anytime she wants. My carpets may wear a little from her high heels, but we all suffer for art. Needless to say, I plied her with the finest drinks in the House.

I said above that she can do what is not possible. Let us finish by watching hands so fast and precise that they defy analysis. You would have to use a high-speed camera to track her fingers.  Hold you breath..... here she goes.



  1. Hadn't heard of her, had quick listen on Spotify. You are not wrong.

  2. Absolutely nothing to do with her being drop dead gorgeous of course. :)

    1. Would I be moved by such considerations? :)

  3. A beautiful (wise) lady with a wonderful talent. She 'feels' the music resonating from within her soul :-)

    1. There are videos of her on YT that show her in almost a trance, playing the most complex pieces. She IS the feeling of the music. There is a transformative power at work. An foretaste of things to come.

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Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..