Yuja Wang is bored: ‘Maybe I’ll have a baby. Maybe I’ll quit at 35’

The over-exposed pianist has been talking to Christian Berzins at Zurich’s NZZ am Sonntag:

  ‘I do not want to be a slave to the repertoire. Maybe I’ll have a baby, maybe I’ll quit at 35, because then I won’t enjoy it anymore. Who knows?’

‘I was home in New York for two weeks, and I enjoyed that time extremely! I met friends, did my stuff and also practiced something. It was so nice! It pulled me back. But then there was check-in again and check-out at the airport, transfers, trains, stress, concert in the evening.’

Read on here.

The headline echoes her self-doubt: ‘Bin ich Gott oder Abfall? – Am I God, or garbage?’

UPDATE: In defence of Yuja Wang



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  • I really hope she stops. This overrated exhibition star, Chinese star has exhausted his possibilities: she can not take off any more, unless she sits in a bikini on the wing, her interpretation of the Hammerklavier Sonata shows how limited she is. Most of all, Wang is a virtuoso and usually very loud. I find Yuja Wang and the media hype around her embarrassing, as a woman I am ashamed of her stupidity: Does she really believe the “Sex sells” strategy works well? She makes herself ridiculous, at the latest, if she has cellulite, the music business does not want her anymore.

    • Exactly what problems did you have with her interpretation of Hammerklavier?

      “Most of all, Wang is a virtuoso and usually very loud.” Ms. Wang’s clothes have the curious effect of turning spectators deaf, but not in the manner that you had in mind, Karin.

      In addition, the way you immediately jumped to the conclusion that she only dresses this way in order to make up for deficiencies in her playing betrays a deep-rooted misogyny.

    • Ms. Becker: I don’t usually respond to such a comment as this–the comment is unbecoming at best, disrespectful, and even disgraceful. But as somebody who has known her for years professionally and humanly, I have another view to put on the table to counter your venom.

      The day I met Yuja was the day I filmed a feature about her for the show Living the Classical Life. She entered, as joyful and grateful as possible, so willing to submit to a format of introspection and deep consideration. She came across as one of the deepest, most vulnerable yet strong, and sincerely kindest human beings we have ever featured. And there was no trace of arrogance or entitlement to any aspect of her life. Her deep commitment to her art and to her mission to share great music with the world was astonishing. We explored her work ethic, and the demands she places on herself. Hers is a probing spirit, always searching for new answers and deeper meaning, and one who is open about just being herself. You would also be flabbergasted by how self-critical she is.

      Some people cannot seem to see past her concert attire. She loves these clothes and has fun collecting and wearing them. Many said the same about Liszt’s over-blown attire, ostentatiously decked out with all of his medals and decorations clanking together, his theatrics, his gloves that he would toss aside, his sex appeal, and his intentions. I notice that the most savage criticism directed at Yuja comes from a very specific demographic and age group, absolutely without fail.

      You dismiss her as a loud virtuoso. When she came here to Cleveland for performances of Rachmaninoff 3 and Bartók 1, what astonished the audiences here, of all my musician friends, teachers, and colleagues, was the heartbreaking, even understated lyricism. I don’t think I heard the Rachmaninoff so arrestingly melancholic, and much of it even seemed at sotto voce. The Bartók was prismatic in its musical grasp and range. I have heard her elsewhere in the world, and am surprised by the sense of discovery and freedom. Her Brahms 1 in Tokyo was introspective and tragic in the very least.

      Most of the guests I feature on Living the Classical Life do not keep in touch as friends, and that’s fine. Yuja became one of the most devoted and caring friends I have ever met, and this has gone on for years. Full of life and humor, she goes above and beyond to be there for her friends. But there is no need to defend her character or sincerity as a musician. What I am saying is that she is doing what she loves doing, fully and with great conviction, musically and in life. What is clear is she is a musician and human being who cares fully about everything. You didn’t like her Hammerklavier? Fine, go and listen to any number of others out there–the world is full of choices and the perspectives of devoted artists.

      I do happen to know she was made aware of your comment. Look what you wrote–you made your opinion clear, but expressed it in appalling, embarrassing terms that only reflect on you.

      Krystian Zimerman once said of the best criticism: for it to be truly perceptive, like a radio station the transmitter and receiver must be equally tuned. Otherwise, one perceives only the effect, not the cause. Sergei Babayan said of Glenn Gould: sometimes we play for listeners who are not present–our message is addressed to another audience.

      You deeply resent her on many accounts. The world is a place to celebrate and respect all, and each has a place in it, to contribute and to share.

      Zsolt Bognár

      • Elegant response, Zsolt. Some of the ad hominem attacks on this blog are often among the most vile anywhere online. There is often a particularly intense revulsion hurled at women who have something to say – often by other women! – in whatever way they choose to say it, presumably out of pure envy. Inevitably they are accused of seeking publicity if they dress a certain way, or choose to make profound creative statements – in defence of human rights, for example. Dropping in a criticism of her Hammerklavier Sonata is supposed to lend authority to the insidiously bitchy comment? You are absolutely right to post your objection at this treatment of Yuja Wang. It is a disgrace. With respect, Sam

      • Thank you Zsolt-well said! Perhaps the woman writing such harsh words about Yuja could share her vision of the Hammerklavier Sonata by posting her own performance of it garbed in “proper” attire so that we might better understand what an enlightened and ideal interpretation sounds like? I’d love to hear it!

      • Thank you, Zsolt for all your insights. I’ve enjoyed and seen all or most of your LTCL programs. Yuja is a huge talent. She chooses to dress as as she pleases. I’m sure as she gets older she will dress a bit more appropriately. I’ve already seen it happen. Now, Beatrice Rana is another super talent, always dresses elegantly. Sometimes we just need to close our eyes and listen to the artist regardless of their attire. It’s really all about the music and how it’s presented.

      • I, for one of many, are so moved by your eloquent response. Yuja Wang is not only a technically-gifted pianist, but also, and more importantly, a MUSICIAN in the deepest and most profound sense. Her gift to the world is, in my opinion, something to be celebrated rather than criticized. What she wears is irrelevant. How she plays moves my heart.

      • Well said! Karin Becker’s vicious and ill-informed words say more about her than about Yuja Wang’s playing, which is remarkably elegant, tasteful, sincere and profound. To anyone with a trace of humanity and feeling, her playing touches the heart.

    • You clearly lack all musical discernment. Shuffle off back to your Lutheran church, and stick to your chorales. Classical music is not for you.

    • She’s only a piano player (albeit a very good one), not an open heart surgeon. It wouldn’t bother me at all if she played in a bikini. Just relax and listen. However, ‘at the end of the day’ (an overused and hackneyed expression), we vote with our dollars. If she truly bothers you, don’t buy tickets or recordings. I love her Ravel and Prokofiev, so I do own those recordings. You don’t have to be distracted by her attire, either (if that’s a problem).

    • I applaud your comment. Does Yuja play well? Yes. Does she dress to provoke? Yes. Does the audience get a sense of edginess from her playing or from her attire? Would we admire her playing as much if we only listened to her on the radio? I don’t think so. Would she garner as much attention if her attire were not so skimpy? No way.

      • That’s way off. Is she attractive, absolutely. Is that a problem for you? What’s mesmerizing is her magnificent playing. I’m a pianist with great love for the Ravel piano “La Valse”. I had heard probably ten or more interpretations but Yuga played it with the passion that I had never heard. I was overwhelmed. AND it was on my classical radio station. I tuned in after they announced who was playing it and was going,” Who is this?.At the end I heard it was Yuga. I went out immediately and bought the cd. Incredible artist. Oh, and she is good looking. Would you prefer Wanda Landowska?

    • Oh Karin, Karin, you sound like an angry German war widow. Jealousy is usually a tacit acknowledgement of inferiority. Judging by your playing in this video, you are indeed much inferior to Yuja.

    • Why does a split skirt, bare thigh, high heels and an irreverent attitude in a massively hard working and talented Chinese female classical pianist so offend you? I am personally offended by artists, for example Damien Hirst, who shamelessly plagiarise others yet claim the conceptual mantle. Truly an artistic man-whore. Focus on the important things and not on the superficial. Yuja Wang is not twerking, baring her punanny and married to an amoral man-whore. She is hugely hard working, self-deprecating, intellectually curious, provocative and supremely talented through dedication and genetics. Those are the aspects aspiring female musicians should pay attention to beyond Yuja’s talent.

      Provocation is a fundamental aspect of art, think of Duchamp’s urinal; and provocative attire a fundamental aspect of fashion. Humans at a psychological level are unduly influenced by attractiveness such that humans make all manner of positive bias attributions for attractive individuals (demonstrated across a broad range of peer reviewed psychological research). Do you rail against this? I am neuro-atypical and therefore less inclined to such interpersonal bias. However, I am inclined to be brutally forthright, and your jaded bigoted cynicism tinged with professional jealousy could essentially be from Victorian ‘Empire’ England or turn of the nineteenth century Vienna.

      Whilst I appreciate your reference to Maurizio Pollini your notions of standards are entirely arbitrary and subjective at best: for example, Language (linguistics: Nativism vs Empiricism, cross-cultural comparison, grammar, pronunciation), Music: where contravening forms and tenets has been a central and important part of Classical and later periods of music, from Mozart, Beethoven onwards; Jazz to Jazz fusion and Stanley Crouch’s narrow, bigoted reactionary views. Classical Hellenistic sculptures in beautiful white marble that were actually originally ‘gaudily painted in bright colours’ by the Greeks.

      Challenging the stuffy conventions of classical music is a good thing. The unique and informal atmosphere of the BBC Proms was always ruined by the self-appointed Rees-Mogg like ‘traditionalists’ who insisted on their right to secure and hold a select promenade position and engage in self-masturbatory rituals. Nigel Kennedy used to regularly commit offences against good taste and propriety with clothes and jarring faux mockney. In 1991 John Drummond criticised Kennedy publicly, calling him “a Liberace for the nineties” and noting specifically his “ludicrous” clothes and “self-invented accent”. So, do you rail against Nigel Kennedy and his recording of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ with the English Chamber Orchestra 1989 which sold over two million copies and earned a place as one of the best-selling classical recordings ever?

      Blind people will appreciate and recognise Yuja Wang’s talent and artistry. Her musical appeal is not dependent upon her dress sense. I first heard Yuja Wang playing on the radio. Please stop being a prejudiced and parochial intellectual goldfish. Expand your mind and understanding with a great deal of self-education across a range human intellectual endeavour. My varied references above might be a good place to start.

    • You are 100% incorrect unfortunately. Yuja is a marvelous person and a musical force that will not come around anytime soon. She’s constantly learning and growing … and extraordinary pianist !

    • Yuja Wang is perhaps the greatest living pianist and arguably one of the greatest pianists in history. She is superhuman. I am a retired hand surgeon graduated from Johns Hopkins and I speak authoritatively when I say she operates technically at a level way beyond the imaginations of mere mortals.

      • I completely share your observations. As a retired pathologist I am in awe of Yuja’s hand performance and the brain that brings it all together.
        Pure genius.

    • And where can we hear you play anything from her classical repertoire? Obviously your mother taught you that, if you can’t speak well of someone, you shouldn’t speak at all!

    • Being a musician—even a mediocre one—requires great discipline and dedication.
      To be a great one like Yuja requires these along with formidable talent.
      I’ve seen her as well as many other great pianists play, she’s one of the best and I tend to prefer her interpretations.
      And as a rule I don’t criticize anyone at something who is better at it than me.

    • It’s about time that classical musicians loosen up the dress-code. As a father of 2 girls I’m glad that thanks to Yuja & Barbara Hannigan & many other performers of her generation my daughters can see that classical music isn’t just the dominion of stuck-up grouches like Karin Becker, who BTW I would just LOVE to subject to a few blind listening tests.

    • you must be tone deaf if all you “see” (hear) in Wang is exhibitionism. Please try to keep the hating to yourself

  • She can be extremely good in a specific repertoire ( Prokofiev, Ravel,
    Shostakovich, Rachmaninov). I was not so fond of other performances I have heard live ( Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms ).

  • If you’ve actually read the article, you would know that the headline quote by no means reflects self-doubt when in context:

    > Ob dann immer noch ein Teil der Zuhörerschaft in ihr die vermeintlich «brillant, aber seelenlos» spielende Asiatin hören wird? «Bullshit» nennt sie dieses Denken. Und sagt, dass es bei ihr irgendwann vorbei war, spielte sie doch so viel Brahms, dass man begriffen hatte, dass sie anders ist. «Aber egal: Ich spiele und weiss nicht, was die da denken, ich kann das nicht kontrollieren. Bin ich Gott oder Abfall? Sollen sie glauben, was sie wollen.»

    In fact, the opposite is the case:

    > Erst wird sie sagen, dass sie einst vielen Kapazitäten vorspielte und auf deren Ratschläge hörte: Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia oder Claudio Abbado. «Aber vor fünf Jahren merkte ich, dass es damit nun auch gut ist. Es ist Zeit, dass ich meine eigenen Urteile akzeptiere. Ich spiele, seit ich sechs Jahre alt bin. Ich realisierte, dass dieses Wissen und eine nötige Intuition tief in meinem Herzen und in meinem Geist stecken. Einige Ratgeber konnten das aus mir rausbringen, aber ich muss das nun für mich alleine entdecken.»

  • But Yuja is the one who chooses to play and travel so much, no one else has as crazy a schedule as her.
    She could also considere relocating to Europe, to cut down on the travel.

  • I suspect perhaps she just plays too often and travels too much. I’m not sure of the numbers but I suspect she plays well over 100 concerts a year and has for a decade or so? That can’t be healthy in the long term. Surely she can afford to take a break and scale it back to 50 or so concerts a year. She is well established and should be able to control her diary that way.

    There is plenty of repertoire that she hasn’t played (always will be for a pianist!), if that’s the issue!

  • A bit of burnout? Maybe she should take a sabbatical to recharge her batteries, or perhaps rejig her concert diary. As a airportphobe I can see her problem, but depriving the music world of her art would be my least favoured option. In the meantime, I wish her well.

  • I don’t think she’s saying she’s bored at the moment. Just anticipating what she might do if she ever got so

  • A hugely overrated soulless automaton.
    From the likes of Sviatoslav Richter to Wuja Wang and Lang Lang.
    It is depressing.

  • “Am I God – or garbage?” That’s actually a very good question. Like the question: “Is my success eternal, or momentary?” It will be very interesting to see what happens next. Maybe a new creative idea will emerge from Yuja’s identity crisis? Maybe a new business concept?

    Hopefully Yuja Wang will realise that – at this moment in time – she’s in a perfect public position to inspire future generations of serious, classical pianists; if she has the right ideas.

    • I do not share your vision. Part of my job is to be more frequent at competitions, competitions where young artists, including pianists, want to compete and make a career. I look at young pianists, to which Miss Wang inspires: These young girls, mostly Asian, appear in a sexy outfit, with a low neckline, transparent fabrics, high side slits. The jury is often embarrassed. That’s why I accuse Miss Wang of wrong behavior: she is an unsuitable role model, because she pretends to future artists, with sex could make a young woman’s career.

      One artist I admire very much is Maurizio Pollini. He gave important impulses for interpretations of works by the composers Chopin, Beethoven, Schuber and Boulez. His recording of the Chopin Piano Concerto from 1960 – he won the Chopin Piano Competition at that time – is still in Deutsche Grammophon’s program today. Pollini has set standards. Something will remain of him. What’s left of Miss Wang? The pictures of her bare thighs and the stinking and heels in stilettos. On Youtube you can see her playing Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto. A listener wrote: Concerto for the left hand and the right thigh. What a feat, Miss Wang!

  • No doubt, Miss Wang is a great gift. Even as a teenager, she played Chopin with a remarkable artistic maturity. She has made an international career very fast. The role of personal ambition and chance, the role of strategic decisions by agents and managers, the importance of media such as Youtube, others can judge. In my opinion, the imaging of this career via cameras and video / TV recordings plays a major role. If not cameras were frequent companions of Miss Wang, even if the tendency towards pornographic nudity were not understandable, using one’s own body as a means of attracting the attention of a global audience would not be successful. Miss Wang is undressing because she (and her management) knows she’s always in the media talk. It provokes, believes, to modernize the ‘dusty’ classics with means of pop and misinterprets this as an act of emancipation. That’s wrong and stupid, and annoying in this stupidity. A woman who has not been emancipated from the ancient means of attracting the attention of men through her more or less naked body is not emancipated either and she is not modern either. She is stupid, especially when, like Miss Wang, she complains in the press that people only talk and write about her outfit. Unfortunately, the scraps of cloth she wears in concerts are often tasteless and usually vulgar, this ugliness is in contrast to the beauty and perfection of the music. I consider Miss Wang to be an immature Girlie who is overburdened by her career, yet robust and smart: the interview in the NZZ is probably also strategic, it probably also contains messages not only to journalists. There is no reason to regret it.

    • It’s not her problem that shallow and unmusical people like some journalists and yourself find her clothes so fascinating that they simply can’t stop talking about it. You accuse her of taking advantage of cameras and YouTube because you believe everyone is as limited as you are and cannot see (or hear) beyond the surface image. You accuse her of employing her clothes as a ploy to stay in media when it is superficial people like yourself that contributed the most to this frenzy over her clothes. In a word, you are projecting.

      • Yuja is a young woman and entitled to dress in the manner that pleases her.
        When listening to Yuja one is overwhelmed by the beauty of her playing and her facial expressions which are as if she were caressing the music it’s self.
        How she dresses is irrelevant, except to those who seem to have prudent interest.

  • ==Some of the ad hominem attacks on this blog are often among the most vile anywhere online.

    Yes, well said. Maybe the site owner needs to do a bit of gentle removal of some of these trolls ? SD will lose credibility eventually if it continues like this.

    • Oh, for heaven’s sake get real. This is a mdoerated site. We encourage vigorous dispute and cut out abuse. It is not ‘among the most vile’. If you think it is, go elsewhere and please don’t come back.

  • I find her to be a magnificent artist with such a Gourous figure. She is just magnificent….but human. I support her in any decisions she makes . take a year off. Trust me the world WILL MISS YOU.

  • Please please please don’t quit. Cut down on concerts perhaps, but do not quit. In the meantime make a few dvd’s so that we can watch that fantastic artist whenever we want.

  • I’m watching/listening to “Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2019” (S47/Ep10) from the gardens of Austria’s Imperisl Schonbrunn Palace, guest artist soloist Yuma Wang, but unfortunately, her virtuosity is eclipsed by her inappropriate dress. If she wants people to notice how well she plays, if indeed she does, perhaps she shouldn’t distract from it so. Maybe she should consider a career as a recording artist rather a than public performances.

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