Yuja Wang becomes a cornerstone of Carnegie Hall

Yuja Wang becomes a cornerstone of Carnegie Hall


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2018

The hall unfurled its 2018-19 season today with Yuja as one of four key components.

That’s quite some rise for a pianist who would not spring to mind as first choice for any single concerto.

The season:

Migrations: The Making of America
Citywide Carnegie Hall festival traces the worldwide journeys of people who helped shape and influence our American cultural heritage

Debs Composer’s Chair: Chris Thile
Composer, vocalist, and mandolin virtuoso leads season-long residency featuring songs written for his public radio show Live From Here, new music commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and performances with longtime collaborators including Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers

Perspectives: Michael Tilson Thomas & Yuja Wang
Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas curates seven-concert series including performances with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and New World Symphony

Pianist Yuja Wang featured in five-concert series, including performances with Leonidas Kavakos, Gautier Capuçon, Martin Grubinger, Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, and an evening of musical comedy with Igudesman & Joo



  • Barry says:

    Someone could have won a lot of money betting that the VPO would split four NYC concerts between Tilson-Thomas and Adam Fischer.

  • Bruce says:

    “That’s quite some rise for a pianist who would not spring to mind as first choice for any single concerto.”

    Interesting. She seems to spring to several people’s minds as first choice for several concerti. But chacun à son goût and all that…

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Indeed. Even Abbado collaborated with her late in his career, at a time when he could probably have his pick more easily than most.

      • Willy Wonka says:

        Oh my man! Can’t people figure out how this works! “Listen Claudio, it will be a great favor to her, it will help her so much, we can do an easy piano concerto and you can conduct a Mahler symphony after you’ve done with her…”

        This is how it works. Abbado with his qualities could of course not care less for this muzak machine. Pleeeease.

        • HSY says:

          Oh yes. After working his magic for Yuja Wang to get a concert with a former Berlin Philharmonic chief conductor, that same person is now telling the next Berlin Philharmonic chief conductor to do the same favor for Yuja Wang again. I’d like to know who that magical agent is, please.

          Claudio Abbado opened the Lucerne Festival in 2009 with Yuja Wang as soloist for the “easy piano concerto” Prokofiev 3rd. After that he led Lucerne Festival Orchestra in an Asia tour, again with YW as soloist. And after that Abbado once again recorded a Rachmaninov disc with her. Whoever that agent/event organizer is, he must be REAL persuasive to make Abbado in his late career to work with a “muzak machine” for so many times. Pleeeease.

          If you want to know what a real “favor” looks like, look no further than what Gergiev does for Trifonov.

          • Willy Wonka says:

            Money and PR, my friend. Even Abbado had to adjust.

            Good you mentioned the Rachmaninov recording – I’d totally forgotten about it! It’s probably not something that will be remembered from Abbado’s legacy in x number of years, uninspired as it is.

            And yes. Prokofiev 3 with an experienced conductor and a brilliant orchestra is not difficult to put together 🙂

            Don’t get me wrong. Yuja Wang is fascinating. Like a musical Cirque de Soleil. If CdS is sold out, I can watch Yuja play Flight of the Bumblebee. Freedom of choice!

          • HSY says:

            One wonders what Abbado has to gain from working with a no name in 2009 in terms of money and PR. But of course you can choose to believe in whichever version of reality you like. Freedom of choice!

            “Prokofiev 3 with an experienced conductor and a brilliant orchestra is not difficult to put together”

            And Paganini rhapsody? Is that also something “not difficult to put together”, hmm?

            YW is indeed fascinating. She is like a mirror. What a person says about YW really tells you something about him/her. If the veneer of a serious “high priest of art” is what you enjoy the most, then perhaps you should consider Flight of Bumblebee a perfect match to your level of aesthetic sophistication and stop pretending otherwise.

        • Geoff says:

          So many experts, but where do they get their knowledge from?

  • Althea Garrison says:

    She plays very difficult music flawlessly, no doubt. But I just can’t find anything special about her playing.

    • Jack Test says:

      Althea, I respect your point of view. But I love Yuja’s dazzling technique AND MORE IMPORTANTLY her interpretations of the music she plays. Her Brahms is so powerful and moving to my ears, for example, and that is FAR MORE IMPORTANT to me than how she looks.

  • Ga Kitada says:

    Yuja Wang has plenty of time left in her career to refine her interpretations. She just hasn’t got there yet…

  • LLawrz says:

    her playing is technically accomplished yet forgettable

  • Peter says:

    Come on, Norman. Michael Tilson Thomas would not be most people’s first-choice conductor for any major orchestral work, and Chris Thile would not be most people’s first-choice composer.

    In all three cases, the question is: so what?

    Wang is, by any measure, a very accomplished pianist who has an enormous international profile – she is by far the best known of the three individuals pictured. Why shouldn’t she get top billing?

  • HSY says:

    Great news. Yuja Wang is a great artist. That program with Grubinger is absolutely amazing; they are also going to play the same program at this year’s Salzburg festival. The program she played last year with Kavakos consisting of works by Janáček, Schubert, Debussy, and Bartók was also wonderful. I look forward to what their program next year.

    “That’s quite some rise for a pianist who would not spring to mind as first choice for any single concerto.”

    YW is the first choice for *all* Russian concertos that are in her repertoire, as well as the Bartok piano concertos. Which concerto would have Trifonov spring to mind as a first choice though? Trifonov is this season’s perspective artist and I didn’t see you complain last year.

    • Mark says:

      Really, she is the first choice for Rachmaninoff – not Kissin, not Sokolov, not Argerich or Bronfman ?

      • HSY says:

        Indeed, yes. The Rachmaninov 3rd she played in Los Angeles is perhaps the finest performance that we have a recording of. But of course that couldn’t possibly be true because Mark doesn’t approve her dresses.

      • Andy says:

        When is the last time Argerich played any Rachmaninoff concerto?

      • Geoff says:

        Mark, do you know any of these artists, famous names are easy to list of, each are interpreters of the composers’ work. If you do not like YW’s playing why do you listen to it?

    • Steve says:

      I agree, certainly for the Russian composers (with the exception of maybe Shostakovich, but not bad). Her Bartók is great and she is also a reference for Schumann, Brahms, Scarlatti, Scriabin and many more…

  • Mark says:

    So first idiot Mayor DeBlasio decides to open a homeless shelter right next to Carnegie Hall, then Nude-ja Wang decides to move in – here goes the neighborhood …

  • Jack says:

    Yuja should announce a #Metoo moment against this blog.

  • Christoph Müller says:

    Of course, Yuja Wang is a scandal: someone who plays piano so fantastically should not be also pretty, intelligent and funny. God was just unfair.

    But can we not just enjoy that she exists?

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    The Yuja Wang/Claudio Abbado version of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto was regarded as the best by BBC Record Review in a recent review of available versions as I recall.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    On https://www.facebook.com/yujawang/

    Christoph Müller posted on February 12, five recordings of the concert for the left hand of Maurice Ravel were compared on Swiss radio SRF2. Of course, the experts had to judge anonymously. The recording with Yuja Wang and Lionel Bringuier was selected as the best with Bavouzet / Tortelier, ahead of Fleisher / Ozawa, Zimerman / Boulez and Thibaudet / Dutoit.

    A nice after-birthday gift for Yuja! Congratulations!!!

    So maybe she is the best after all.

    That’s two best recording awards.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Yuja Wang v Murray Perahia in Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata. These two pianists played this sonata independently in New York and Los Angeles in early 2016.

    Here are three reviews.




    Here is Miss Wang’s perfomance at the Carnegie Hall captured on YouTube.


    plus her 20 minutes of encores


    Mr. Perahia’s Hammerklavier is just out on the famouse DG Yellow Label.

    So we can compare the two performances for ourselves. What do you think? I would be interested to hear Mr. Lebrecht’s comments. They certainly love her at Carnegie Hall.

    • Fan says:

      Thanks for the links. Without having listened to both – which I intend to do soon – I will conjecture that it’s still too early to compare Ms. Wang to Perahia.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Glad you liked the posts. Here’s another comparative review of the two performances.


    To go head to head with the great Murray Perahia is an act of great courage in itself. I don’t think the mighty Vladimir Horowitz ever took on the Hammerklavier.

    To me, one of the joys of classical music is listening to different performers and their insights on a well-loved piece of music. I found Yuja Wang’s adagio sublime, but that’s just my view. I will purchasing the Perahia version very soon.

    I love Bernstein’s version of Sibelius’ First Symphony for example. I found it very dramatic and powerful. It was interesting to hear Simon Rattle’s comments about this performance. He obviously wasn’t so sure.

    To my mind this is what keeps this art form alive, the way that different performances find new insights and contemporary resonances. The Daily Telegraph wrote about how Iestyn Davies’ recent CD of Bach cantatas captured the essence of a contemporary insight into these works.