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Inspirational people


2831 Yuja Wang
Watercolour
15 x 21 cm

  Yuja Wang

(Notes on the concert of 12 September, 2015 at the Angel Place concert hall in Sydney)

The pianist Yuja Wang is a phenomenon. I don't really know how else to describe her.

The packed audience waiting in Sydney's Angel Place concert hall gave an astonished gasp as she appeared through the stage door. Out walked a beautiful young Chinese woman in a dress as slinky as I have ever seen on stage and very high platform shoes. Can this extraordinary person really play the piano?

She gave a quick bow, sat down at the piano and from the moment she touched the keyboard we were in her hands. There was no question she could play, the only question was whether we had ever heard anything like her.

She played Scriabin and Chopin, then after the interval (in a different and equally stunning dress and ultra-high shoes) more Chopin and more Scriabin. She finished with Balakirev's Islamey, a piece which has the reputation of being the most difficult piece of piano music yet written. My seat neighbour told me that for this reason you often hear it at piano competitions.

Wang played each piece as if the composers had written them just for her most amazingly competent hands. She confounded our expectations at every turn. The thing that made this performance even more exceptional was Wang's diffidence on stage. With her bobbed hair and open face she looked and acted like the teenage girl next door, bowing quickly and without artifice.

The audience was enthralled. After an extraordinary one and a half hours of playing she answered the applause with multiple encores. Not little short easy pieces but substantial works, mostly with a fun element, a bit of jazz or musical humour.

We the audience were exhausted by the brilliance of the star. I must say that after this marathon performance she looked tired too .... although as soon as she sat for an encore the tiredness seemed to evaporate. As I left the hall I walked past the queue of people waiting for a signed CD. It stretched right along the entrance hall and into the street behind. People in the queue were telling each other that, yes, they might have to wait and hour but it was worth it. They wanted a physical memento of this extraordinary evening.

 

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