Yuja Wang: Prokofiev 3 is just so easy

The quote comes at 2:40.

Might it be time for her to try the Schoenberg? Birtwistle? Some Alkan?


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  • In listening to this very warm, friendly interview, what she is referring to is the relative ease to put the piano together with the orchestra. I never had the feeling she meant that the piece is easy to play, but the collaboration is not terribly difficult. Prokofieff planned it out very well. I like the adjectives she applies to the characters and moods of the music. Overall, a delightful conversation.

  • I asked her if she’d try some Alkan about 4 years ago online. She emphatically said no, because she didn’t find Alkan to be that musical.

    I am surprised that she hasn’t gravitated towards Kapustin. That seams to fit her personality better. She sadly doesn’t seem to be interested in Bouelz or Stockhausen.

    • She’s played some Kapustin. There is a good performance of Toccatina (op.40/3) in one of her DG recordings. I also heard her play Variations.

      Her recital program for next season is not finalized yet, but if the preliminary program information on the websites of a couple of venues is to be believed, it will include Debussy études and works by Bach, Brahms and Schoenberg.

      I have a hunch that she will play both Ligeti and Schoenberg concertos in the future. We’ll see…

    • Sounds that YW doesn’t know at all C.V. Alkan music-big output of exquisite, spirited music. Can she name his pieces? Herethy and ignorance from YW

      • Disagreeing with “esfir ross” does not necessarily equal “ignorance”. Sometimes it means exactly the opposite.

    • It is a double-edged sword, owen. In lessons with Adele Marcus, who studied with technical wizard, Josef Lhevinne and with Artur Schnabel, she had technique to burn. She once said something very enlightening: “Technique is like money – it isn’t everything, but without it, you can’t do anything. Don’t envy those with tremendous facility, dear. Facility and technique are two totally different things. Technique is how we make music with the facility. Having too much facility can be a bad thing, because, if something comes that easy, we don’t take the time to learn it physically and musically simultaneously to deepen the musical side. We learn it quickly, and then we’re done because we’ve already learned the physical challenges rather quickly. Rosina Lhevinne once came to me and said, ‘My student, he is nine years ago and has spaghetti fingers. It takes him so long to learn new piece’. I said, that is a good thing, because he will take more time to learn the piece and will spend more time with the music so it develops the musical aspects along with the physical.” My translation of this is that when facility is on so high a level, we have to remind ourselves to take the piece apart as if we cannot physically play it, and take time with it. It may not be as easy as one thinks, and to maintain a facility takes work as well. When we would leave pieces alone and then return to them, thinking it would come back so easily, Adele would say, “Monkeys do fall from trees, dear”. In other words, there are no substitutions for work no matter the facility, and there are no short cuts to deepen musicality.

  • Hey, she’s young, beautiful, has a particular dress sense and I would guess more talented than some of the people who regularly rip her to shreds on this blog and elsewhere. The life of a musician is a strange and often precarious one – so why begrudge her (or others) for making a good living whilst she has the youth, energy , musicality and wherewithal to do so? Not everything she does is great, but it’s not the case that everything is crap either. It’s like that with anyone – even the ‘greats’ – or did Callas never sing a dud note in her life?! Listen, and then if you can do better, bloody well do it, rather than sitting there and destroying a hard-working, talented lady for your own vanity.

    • I think, to be fair to critics, she sadly exhibits all the traces of narcissism. This is often a huge turn-off for people over 40 who are not this way inclined.

    • I agree with you totally, Beckmesser, except for one tiny thing. Everything Yuja Wang does (on the keyboard at least), IS great. I haven’t heard an ‘iffy’ performance from her yet. Apart from that you’re spot on.

  • Her Ligeti is superlative…I think it’s a bit unfair to suggest that she overlooks more challenging composers…

  • But its is common knowledge and factually true that both the 2nd and the 5th concerto are more difficult (for the soloist and the orchestra) that the 3rd! She didn’t say anything shocking or, for that matter, insightful.

      • Very enjoyable, colorful, atmospheric music, Vladigerov, but certainly not interesting enough to spend much time learning if there are other priorities. Pianistically limited to grand gestures, (lots of block chords), and standard patterns, harmonically predictable…..not very tempting for Yuja, i suspect.

  • Many years ago I attended an all Alkan recital with Ronald Smith, an incredible experience particularly the Symphony for solo piano, it’s a huge challenge, great shame his music is not performed more.

    • It’s fortunately being performed and recorded far more today than was the case when the excellent Ronald Smith was undertaking his pioneering work in the Alkan cause; still not often enough, perhaps, but…

  • Well, I guess you didn’t listen to the whole conversation then. How ignorant and small minded and what a misleading title! You missed the part where she said ”and it’s not that easy’, didn’t you?

    • If you “could care less about” them, then apparently you do presently care more than a little about them. Unless “muslit” happens to also be “illit”.

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