Yuja Wang: ‘If I’m going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable’

Yuja Wang: ‘If I’m going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable’


norman lebrecht

April 10, 2017

From the Chinese-American pianist’s Observer interview with the well-dressed Fiona Maddocks:

“If a beautiful male pianist wears tight pants, I’m not going to think, ‘What’s in those pants’?” Really not, Yuja? Hoots of laughter. “OK, maybe. But if the music is beautiful and sensual, why not dress to fit? It’s about power and persuasion. Perhaps it’s a little sadomasochistic of me. But if I’m going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable while I’m at it.”

Full interview here.

photos: Youtube


  • Alexander says:

    she must team up with K(h)atia then , much money they could earn – would be enough to live ad libitum happily doing nothing 🙂

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Like Renée Fleming and the other shampoo-model “pianist”, anything to draw attention to themselves.

  • Andy says:

    Whatever else is going on, she seems to be a wonderful pianist.

    • Sue says:

      I absolutely agree with that but, having said it, she’s also narcissistic. The behaviour, neuroses, flaws and values of all people are represented vertically through all the classes and not just horizontally through one.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    It’s a pity that Yuja Wang’s nice physique sometimes attracts more attention than her musicianship (nevermind that she could be blamed for that). I find a lot to like in her piano playing, and believe that she has the potential to mature into a great artist.

    • vasturn says:

      Indeed, and the dress becomes irrelevant once she hits the first key. I saw her play a recital at the Concertgebouw recently and her playing was utterly captivating.

  • HSY says:

    Also Norman, at least update that photo. It is 6 years old already! I thought you are quite savvy in reporting on female musicians’ latest dresses?

    • Hah says:

      What about male musicians’ latest dresses?

      • HSY says:

        Regrettably male musicians do not have such diverse options on the way they dress. But in the interest of gender equality that is much championed here on this blog, I suggest Norman should give equal coverage to male musicians every time they change their clothes.

      • Sue says:

        Yeah, the designer ‘op shop grunge’ of Nigel Kennedy always, er, amuses.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    I propose that all performances be played behind a black screen. This way no one will be biased about how well they played. Musical beauty should be in the ears of the listener, not the eyes of the beholder.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Then the same people who previously complained about what they saw would probably complain about not being able to see anything or the screen’s colour being depressing.
      I can honestly say that I have never had problems focusing on the music and not on the attire worn by performers.
      (Instead of putting up a black screen, one could simply use the two little ‘screens’ Mother Nature provided most of us with)

    • Ungeheuer says:

      Thumbs up

    • HSY says:

      “behind a black screen”? Do you imagine yourself on a jury out there handing out scores to each artist? You sound like you go to concerts in order to judge, not to enjoy a performance. Come to think of it, not even piano competitions do this. If the visuals can enhance a performance, I don’t see why they should be denounced in such a sweeping manner. Plus, you can always close your eyes or look at the back of the seat in front of you if you don’t like what you see.

      • boringfileclerk says:

        Performing behind a screen is the only way stop the rampant sexism classical music. We should all be there for the music, not for the perceived beauty or dress of the performers. I myself try to blindfold or shield my eyes to every concert I attend.

        • HSY says:

          “I myself try to blindfold or shield my eyes to every concert I attend.” And therefore everyone else should do exactly as I do and everyone should be deprived of the visual aspect of a performance, because I don’t like it.

          Oh but you sound so righteous when you say you want to “stop sexism”. Those female artists are only where they are because of “the perceived beauty or dress of the performers”, aren’t they? There is no need for them to dress the way they like unless they are compensating for their lack of talent, surely?

          • boringfileclerk says:

            Classical Music has traditionally been a bastion of white, sexually frustrated men who would rather gloat over a pretty face at the piano rather than to listen to her play. This needs to end. Surely everyone knows this to be true. The litany of attacks on young woman by older faculty in conservatories enumerated on this very blog attests to this. The Patriarchy must be brought to it’s knees!

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Instead of blindfolding have you thought of following the music with a score instead?

          • boringfileclerk says:

            Reading along while someone is onstage is rude. Besides, I often study and commit a score to memory before a concert. The only exception would be if it is a new work that I somehow haven’t heard before.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Well, hat off if you memorize scores before concerts! But you got me curious: why do you find score reading rude? I have no better way to follow the music. Shouldn’t that flatter the musicians?

  • Fan says:

    There are many other things going on in the article, but you chose to quote this particular sound bite. As a loyal reader of your blog, I’m not sure who is worse here: the reporter who felt obliged to frame the story in sartorial terms, you who took words out of a context created by your journalist colleague or some of your mindless readers who couldn’t read a highly formulated piece of writing critically.

  • Bruce says:

    Funny. You’d almost think that a person’s playing is not the most important thing.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Why can’t other female pianists take a leaf out of her book and loosen up? We’d appreciate their musical artistry more! C’mon, Martha, shed those black duds and sparkle in short, tight spangles!

    • Sue says:

      And get a haircut. Please!! It’s only 40 years overdue. I can’t look at her!!

      • Bruce says:

        LOL. Then you’ll just have to listen. (Besides, if you buy a recording, at least you know it’s going to show up 🙂 )

        • Sue says:

          Spot on! But she generally plays way too fast for my tastes anyway. I always think she’s got an urgent appointment when she’s playing. Well, it hasn’t been to rush home to the delectable SK these days anyway.

  • M2N2K says:

    She is a very good pianist. The way she dresses and the way she talks about it is not why I am interested in hearing her piano playing. The only thing about her that is worth talking about and discussing is her musicianship. The rest is unimportant.

    • Ben says:

      God bless you.

      However, would you mind if Bang Bang dresses like Fabio (the novel cover person, not the conductor) during his concerts?

      • M2N2K says:

        Thanks for the blessing – I’ll save it until my next sneeze. As for your question, it is difficult for me to answer because I don’t recall how a male model known as Fabio used to dress and I am not aware of any classical music performer named “Bang Bang”. But I can tell you this: if and when similarly named Lang Lang manages somehow to reduce his self-indulgent exaggerations a bit and to start playing the way that his considerable talent should enable him to, I will be ready to forgive him quite a lot as far as his fashion sins are concerned.


    SHE IS YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUJA…’NUF SAID !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • me! says:

    I think she’s wonderful and artistry is about individuality, letting the artist dress and present him/her self. She certainly looks good in my book, and that’s a plus, not required but to be enjoyed as well if it’s there. Women (and men) dress as they wish, it’s a shame she needs to keep addressing “how she dresses.” She has no boss to set a dress code for her job of making music.

  • BillG says:

    That is so 20th Century. Back then it was “sex sells”. Anyone stuck watching commercials on TV knows for this day and age “dogs sell.” She needs to have a Golden Retriever on stage.

    • Dave T says:

      Even better if that dog can speak with a Bri-ish accent. He could sell car insurance, tax return service (!), river cruises, gum… just about anything.

  • Peter says:

    ‘If I’m going to get naked with my music, I may as well be comfortable’

    Well, why the obvious follow up question wasn’t asked to this: Why do you have to get naked in the first place? She talks about getting (half) naked as if it is a requirement, not a choice.

    • HSY says:

      She’s most certainly talking about getting naked emotionally in the first half of the sentence. In other words, the physical clothes she wears is nowhere as exposing as baring her innermost emotions to her audience.

  • BillG says:

    As an old college classmate used to say, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing nekkid!”

  • Gary C Silber says:

    I think the trend toward female and male concert performers looking wonderful is great. It doesn’t diminish their musicianship whatsoever. I think it adds to their appeal on stage. Just as part of the joy of great cuisine is visual, there is nothing wrong with a concert musician or opera singer wanting to look striking. Whether they choose to look elegant, sophisticated, or sexy is part of their personality. Let others be who they wish to be.

  • Terry provenzano says:

    Yuja could you do a studio tape nude? Go girl!

  • jake says:

    She is a great pianist, she gets to dress any way she likes, and you can all eat your fucking livers with your petty jealousy.

  • The Captain says:

    I wish she would get naked. The way she masters the music, it would be the ultimate in a music experience.