Yuja Wang: I’m too small to wear real clothes

From an interview with Elle magazine:

‘It’s hard to find clothes because I’m so petite. In my twenties, I’d put on my tight Hervé Léger dress and heels, and it looked like I was going to the bar. Concertgoers think, Classical music—it’s really serious. There are lots of rules, and the dress code, which I broke, was one of them. It’s irrelevant to what we’re doing. It’s just a piece of cloth, but once it’s on my body, it boosts my confidence, and that translates to the music.’


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  • Good! The rest of the interview is interesting too. Among several outstanding performances I attended by her, Prokofiev Piano Concerto 3 with Abbado is equalled only by Argerich.

    • I attended that Prok 3, if you mean the one in Luzern, and it was certainly good. But I wouldn’t put it on a level with Martha’s, if only because of the authority gap.

  • Revealing so much of her body on stage in order to boost her confidence? Exhibitionism is not a substitute for inner self-esteem, which she clearly lacks. She’s entitled to have fun with fashion on stage, but fun with flesh belongs elsewhere. A true musician draws attention to the music she performs, but Ms. Wang’s couture (i.e., what little there is of it) makes it impossible for her male listeners to do anything other than deal with the fantasies that her visuals inevitably conjure up.

      • While being gay, i find her very good looking and I admire her daring couture. Meanwhile yes that third Prokofiev with Abbado hits the nail, but as love Prokofiev’s second even more, it is such a tortured, and pianist torturing piece, that I love watching her do that. But what I hear is right on the spot too. There are several versions of that on youtube, two with Dutoit, one with a blue dress, one with a red dress. Colourful. But musically right, anyway.

        • Heard Yuja do Prok 2nd live with the Philadelphia Orchestra years ago when she first started to become known. During the performance, I thought, “wow, who the hell is this girl?” While her beauty influences me to a certain extent, her pianistic ability does so even more.

        • Surely that comment should have been directed towards Steinway Fanatic, not Harold Lewis.

          • Thank you, Alexander. By the way, I don’t have a camera, even on my mobile phone. And if I did, I certainly would not use it at a concert.

    • I am one of many who refuses to listen to her music because she prides herself by dressing like prostitutes on stage. How sad!

      • Oh dear, yet another Slipped Disc comment that thinks it’s acceptable to compare a woman to a prostitute because of how she chooses to dress. Indeed, why is it even considered acceptable to use “prostitute” as a pejorative term? Are sex workers not just as human as everybody else?

        • Some people consider prostitution as a venerable job like architecture or poetry, both – like prostitution – with a long history of thousands of years and stretching back to the dawn of civilization. War mongering, honor killing and slavery also have venerable histories. It is always refreshing to see that human evolution does not proceed on one track.

      • You are one the few who have the guts to tell the truth about her taste, or lack thereof, in choose what to wear when presenting herself on the stage of classical music concerts. Thank you for sharing.

    • Yes, speak for yourself. Your amateur’s analysis of Ms. Wang’s psyche also leaves much to be desired. And by the way, I attended a recital by Ms. Wang and she totally drew my attention to the music she was playing. If you’re that easily distracted, let me encourage you to listen to her audio recordings.

    • Steinway Fanatic: her attractiveness drew me to listen, her artistry made me come back. Just because i have genitals doesnt mean i listen with them.

      Your comments appear more to be jealousy of her success rather than based on valid artistic issues. I hope I’m wrong, but why not list what you find invalid in her career? I dislike vulgar advertising, have always cringed at the incessant press releases whenever certain artists have a bowel movent (see: Domingo; diDonato, or make your own list)but don’t find this with Wang.

    • “Ms. Wang’s couture (i.e., what little there is of it) makes it impossible for her male listeners to do anything other than deal with the fantasies that her visuals inevitably conjure up.”

      I think you mean “some of her male listeners”.

  • Completely true, ‘Steinway Fanatic’. She should get confidence from her playing, not from taking off her clothes.

    • Who gave this “john” the right to dictate to other people where they “should” be getting their confidence? The (other?) “john” whose comment is just above seems much more reasonable on this issue.

  • I really don’t understand why people care about her clothes. I only care about her music – he is uneven, but very talented, certainly will be more constant in a few years. Nothing else matters.

  • I love this artist and I adore her couture!!l She’s a living doll and she plays magnificently. I’ve seen her at the Wiener Konzerthaus and the only thing which staggered me was her facility with pedalling in high stiletto heals. She’s a girly girl; so what!!? We could use a few more of them, IMO. She knows that concertizing is, finally, ‘show biz’ and plays it to the hilt, in every way. Keep doing that thing you do, Yuja.

      • FFS what has this to do with Yuja Wang in particular, or with this blog in general? Kindly stop distracting from riveting discussions about her shoulders and 90 degree bow.

        • For your information I was commenting to someone who was discussing men’s evening dress, which from the point of view of classical musicians has become decidedly casual over recent years.
          They now wear what resembles bar staff attire, quite appalling. Orchestra and chamber music players should be correctly dressed, I suggested visiting one of the last proper tailors left in London, which my family have used for over 200 years. As they do not outsource their prices are much higher, but the quality is far better than anything made up in a sweat shop in Hong Kong. I was not at all interested in some obscure pianist who had difficulty finding clothes to fit, such are article should not appear at all but then the blog seems full of irrelevant trivia, instead of debating more relevant topics such as the general decline of composed classical music since the death of Johann Strauss (Sohn) in 1899, the rise of ghastly “wrong note“ music, why classical music today in the 21st century has a declining audience ,the death of music performed in the home, the lack of music broadcasts on BBC TV, why 21st century classical music is unlistenable, these are just some themes for discussion.

          • If you call Yuja Wang an “obscure pianist” and are unaware of how much great classical music was composed after 1899, then you should start educating yourself before commenting on any matter related to classical music.

  • She’s an international phenomenon. Somehow I think her fame and reputation will expand beyond the snark committee in this blog.

  • There’s been a lot of comment here which, to my mind at least, rather misses the point. Can anyone recommend a good tailor? Surely Yuja could wear pants if appropriately tailored. And pull it off rather dashingly, me thinks.

    I couldn’t care less about her apparel (not strictly true as I enjoy it), but her suggestion that it’s not possible to wear less revealing apparel due to her size strikes my as ridiculous. Macy’s is rife with size 3 and 4 women’s apparel. Yuja may not be able to wear it off the rack, but nor am I in the pants I wear everyday to work.

    A competent seamstress (is that word still allowed?) obscures a multitude of sins.

  • There is a certain decorum related to the performance of art music. People hear what they see. (Scientific proof). Regardless of the performance, the dress (uniform) should equally complement the music and not overwhelm it. Simply stated, it’s too much!

    • That “decorum” has been changing constantly and is very different in this century compared to the 18th. To cite just one example of more recent changes, attire of male conductors is far more varied now than it was just a few decades ago when virtually every one of them was wearing tales. So, it is quite possible that many female soloists will start wearing “Yuja style” outfits very soon, and when the audience gets used to it more, they will notice it less.

        • Madam, go to Dunmore & Locke, you won’t find them online, they are the last great bespoke tailors in St.James, all the others do outsourcing to HK, China, Italy & India. Evening tails, with white vest. Marcello shirt with plain collar mother of peal studs, not wing collar (only worn during the 1920-30s) Do not wear a black tie otherwise you might get mixed up with Gieves. I wear my father’s made in the 1950s with my 1810 fob watch from Dublin. I also have a blue riding coat exactly the same as Wellington’s as worn at Waterloo.

      • Using conductors’ dress code as an example is not exactly a reference that is worthy of note. Actually, I think it looks ridiculous. They look like Catholic Priests! Makes you want to go to confession at intermission to ask forgiveness for your performance not being 100%! And as far as the audience getting use to it? Well, I guess we got use to Madonna and others that followed that sort of dress code. Sex sells.

          • Dressing “appropriately” is a part of “decorum” (as you yourself correctly noted in your earlier comment above here) and therefore the boundaries of acceptability keep changing for that as well.

          • You want ride on a merry-go-round of semsntics, have fun. Dress appropriately means what it is. She is over-done and inappropriate.

          • Repeating the same statement without supporting it with any credible evidence does not make it true.

        • I always go, in the intermission of a symphony concert, to the conductor’s room and ask forgiveness for the sins of my collegues, because ‘they don’t know what they are doing’. I always get absolution by proxy for them because it is true and the conductors always agree.

  • The rest of the interview was about music, so obviously the quote was for clickbait purposes. NL knows he’s going to get at least 23 comments when Yuja’s clothes are up for discussion. If NL had chosen the quote about Bartok’s three concertos, only 4-5 people would have commented.

  • I should be interested to know why misogyny seems to be so prevalent among readers of this blog. This is not the first story that has brought these kinds of ugly comments to the fore. One theory that I have is that there are a lot of musicians whose careers never quite took off and they can’t bear to see somebody else succeed, even less a woman, and least of all a woman who is young and beautiful.

  • This is not the first time she is here for the very same reason.
    If music is the point, you don’t need to see anything. Just close your eyes and listen to it. I came from a place that every week you can see people dressing very small clothes in the beach, during the whole year. I cannot understand the big deal with her dresses at all. I like her pianism, although she is far from the authority of Argerich as some people said here.

    I’ve try to close my eyes to avoid all the clowning/japery/drollery of Dudamel on Stage, but in his case the music is the biggest problem ever.

      • In fact I don’t think that makes too much sense to compare both, just because they are females. Again if we close our yes, we won’t get the pianist gender for sure. The point here is about code dress. I believe we both think in the same way.

        Anyway, I don’t think Wang is equal to Argerich at the same age. The Argentinian made some of the most important records during the 70’s, that remains up to now among the best ever interpretations. Just to mention some ones during her 30 and something years old. Sergey Prokoviev: Piano Concerto No. 3. Ravel: Piano Concerto in G. Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit. Chopin: 26 Préludes; Barcarolle; Polonaise. Tchaikovsky: Klavierkonzert Nr. 1. Liszt: Sonate H-Moll (In B Minor). Schumann: Sonate G-Moll (In G Minor). Chopin: Sonates 2,3. Schumann – Fantasy In C, Op. 17 / Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 . I don’t believe that Ms. Wang made any record that can be included into the Legend category. At least up to now. However, she is in the way to do it.

  • With the passage of time this sort of attire will not be possible anymore and then you can assess whether it is her pianism that is the source of her success.

  • “The Russian [romantic] stuff, especially in my twenties. It’s more passionate and cathartic. The German can be a little square and serious, but it reaches deeper”

    What an incredibly sophisticated view of music. She forgot to mention that French music is light and gay, and Italian operas have a profusion of pretty tunes – eye roll …

    Yuja’s attire is consistent with her views – she is a wunderkind who (so far) has not shown any meaningful signs of maturity. The reason she chooses to dress that way is, quite simply, because she can – just like a child who will eat nothing but candy, if left unsupervised.
    Now, I will give Yuja her due – she does have an extraordinary technique, that allows her to excel in certain segments of the repertoire. I’ve attended a number of her concerts in NYC – her Hammerklavier was a fiasco (especially when compared to Murray Perahia’s Olympian rendition of the same work a week before). And when she chose to play a vulgar, circus-like transcription of the Turkish March right after Beethoven, it was yet another evidence of her immaturity and lack of taste.
    Finally, I am amused by the fact that certain commenters here describe her as beautiful – naturally, de gustibus non est disputandum, but THIS is your idea of beautiful woman ?

  • Reading through several of the comments I can’t help thinking of the supposed Islamic dresscode, of which it is said that men dictate about how women should dress in order not to be tempted by them and to be be taken serious.

  • Miss Wang is a musical firecracker, a fantastic musician for a wide range of repertoire. Her dress problems are, I fear, something of a slippery slope – if she were even smaller, she would not wear anything at all.

  • Yuja Wang is an excellent pianist who understands the mechanisms of celebrity. A certain portion of her audience has the ability to appreciate her talent. Another portion is fascinated by her because of her concert attire. Yet another portion is fascinated by her because so many other people are fascinated by her, which is the primary mechanism of celebrity. If she had dressed conventionally all along, she might have been able to make a decent living as a concert pianist on the basis of her considerable talent, but she would not have become the celebrity that she is now. Her concert attire does not tell us anything about the quality of her playing; it does not prove that she lacks talent. But it is as much a driver of her celebrity as is her playing. I generally take a dim view of the celebrity phenomenon, above all in the classical music business; unfortunately I don’t have any bright ideas about how to rid the business of it.

  • RG nails it. Many other comments demonstrate the crowd commenting on this premiere classical music news blog is not the smartest one, which may or may not shed light on contemporary audienceship of classical music.

  • Again, the way mostly men here are telling women how to dress during music performances in order not to be distracted from their music playing does not differ fundamentally from how in some cultures men think they should decide how women should cover themselves up in order not to seduce them. And all this because of what Yuja Wang probably jokingly told a women’s fashion magazine.

    • Neil,
      What a bunch of crap! Take a break! RG says it all!
      And m2 k2 ( aka) r2d2 take a break also.

  • The tastelessness of her clothing extends to her playing as well. She should not be enjoying such a major career, and it comes at the expense of serious musicians who do not distract the audience with their clothing. I remember one lackluster pianist who made a point of wearing red socks to distract you from the tedious shallowness of his playing. I really expect better of those in decision-making positions. Really! Otherwise, no one of real talent will ever bother to study music seriously.

  • As a female, I feel that her choice of wardrobe distracts from and cheapens the art of the music. Just my personal opinion. I really can’t see any appropriate reason for it.

  • I am a female. And I was born and raised in Beijing, too. But I absolutely detest her taste in choosing what to wear on the stage of a classical music concert. They are not occasion-appropriate. They are not respectful to her fellow musicians. They remind me of a cabaret dancer, or a red light district joint bar waitress, or even a bondage practitioner. What a shame! What traumatic event(s) could have happened to her childhood in Beijing that she now needs to show her skin in order to boost her confidence on a performing stage?! God knows. (Or maybe Dr. Freud, too.)

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