Conductor apologies for dissing Yuja

Conductor apologies for dissing Yuja


norman lebrecht

February 24, 2020

The Canadian conductor Tania Miller has issued an apology for accusing Yuja Wang of disrespecting her audience by performing in sunglasses in Vancouver on Friday night. In response to about 100 hostile comments, she now writes:

Ok folks. I do want to apologize. First to Yuja Wang who is an extraordinary, deeply talented and beautiful musician. Second to all of you who I drew into a negative experience with this comment that I wrote. I believe that we all have a role to play. As audience we are asked to respect the music, to be quiet, not to cough, to clap in respectful places. As performers, we are asked to warmly share the experience of the music and to find ways to connect people to the music, and through the music to us. My comments have been taken into a variety of directions, but overall, I just wish you all great and meaningful experiences in life and music.

UPDATE: Several hours later, she issued a second apology on Twitter:

Tania Miller, Conductor: To Yuja Wang & all her fans, I am truly sorry for the shock & the terrible traumatic experience that you had at the border coming into Vancouver, and truly sorry for adding in any way to that terrible experience. Please accept my very sincere apologies.

She has also taken down the original post from her Facebook page.

The Vancouver Recital Society issued this statement:

We are so grateful to Yuja Wang for being the consummate professional during her all too brief time in Vancouver on Friday evening.

We have received so many comments from patrons who attended the recital, glowing about how wonderfully she performed and asking for her return.

It saddens us to read all of the mean-spirited commentary online and we want to make it known that the VRS has nothing but the highest regard for Yuja as a person and an artist.

All too often, people forget that musicians too, are human. We all have good and bad days and it is a testament to her strength and character that she chose to press on despite the terrible treatment she received.

We are sharing her words describing her experience, and ask that everyone take a step back and try to imagine how they might have handled a similar experience.


  • Dee Miner says:

    That should have been this conductor’s position all along – apology is after the horse has bolted, offense caused and damage done. She should think before she speaks next time – how might she feel if the situation were reversed?

  • Andy says:

    She should apologise. Plenty of others who were there say the music was fantastic, and photos have circulated showing Yuja Wang interacting warmly with an audience that had stood to applaud her. Things have been said about the artist on the strength of this that are clearly untrue (‘she “blanked” her audience’ – it’s a fact that she didn’t), and without context, to invite criticism. For what gain? It’s really poor.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      I am not a Yuja fan and hold no brief for her, but I think this blog also should apologize. In the original post, Zsolt Bognar’s very fitting comment on this issue was promptly knocked down by our blogger, whose words in short were, “Zsolt, you’ve had accurate information about what happened…all else is window dressing.” Peculiar, to say the least. We had who, when and where, but precisely what happened beforehand and why were/are missing. The journalist’s five Ws are intended to ensure the essence of a story is presented and as completely as is feasible. I still want to know the What and Why of the business at the airport, and that’s not “window dressing”.

  • RW2013 says:

    Less an apology than a cry for attention.
    Maestra has had her 15 minutes.
    Now back to provincial oblivion.
    And long live Yuja!

    • Miguel Cervantes says:

      Tania Miller is a conductor who does not have a musical directorship. She was replaced at the Victoria (BC) Symphony by a great up-and-coming Danish conductor, Christian Kluxen. Since she’s dependent on free-lance gigs, she has really shot herself in the foot.

  • Finaly it’s good for the marketing of miss Wang and for DG. Involutary, she will become more famous and there will be no places for the other pianists of her generation who don’t have her quality for making the buzz. there will be a moment some people will blame Yeol Eum Son (next month a Schubert album) and Beatrice Rana for not making it.

  • Time for the 11th commandment, ‘ thou shalt know when to shut up’

  • HOMEWORK says:

    Tania Miller has apologized. She says “Ok folks. I do want to apologize.” And she does, both to Yuja Wang and the audience.

    But she doesn’t leave it at that. She refers to the audience “whom I drew into a negative experience with this comment that I wrote.” I’m not sure what she means. Is the implication that that they somehow participated in negativity and are somewhat to blame too? Maybe not, but it did seem that way to me. Personally I feel apologies are best when they are short, simple and sincere.

    She ends her apology with a rather strange sentence: “My comments have been taken into a variety of directions, but overall, I just wish you all great and meaningful experiences in life and music.”

    Now I may be totally misreading this sentence, but to me the tone seems to have a kiss-off, yada yada yada quality about it. Am I wrong? If so, I apologize.

    I was not at the recital in question. (I’m looking forward to the Carnegie Hall recital this Friday). But comments from others who were present suggest that not everyone interpreted the event the same way as Tania Miller did. I also note the very nice words from the Vancouver Recital Society which are on this same post.

    And looking again at the rather patronizing tone of the original comments by Tania Miller towards one of the world’s leading pianists, together with her slightly odd apology, I am left with the impression that she may be a bit too arrogant for her own good.

    • Bruce says:

      She refers to the audience “whom I drew into a negative experience with this comment that I wrote.” I’m not sure what she means.

      I understood it to mean that she implied the entire audience reacted the way she did, when in fact they did not; so she’s apologizing to the audience as well.

      • HOMEWORK says:

        Thanks. I think you’re right. I didn’t get it because “drew into” isn’t plain English for “implied”. Hope her conducting is better than her writing!

  • V.Lind says:

    Here’s a clip from the concert (and an answer to all those whoo wondered what she was wearing):

  • M McAlpine says:

    The right thing to do but she’s have done better not to express express judgment on a fellow artist in the first place.

    • V.Lind says:

      Rushing to judgment — not very nice.

      As apologies go, it is certainly a bit self-excusing. By other accounts her tale was inaccurate as to Ms. Wang’s interaction with the audience. Ms. Miller does not take responsibility for judging in absence of full facts.


      That is so crazy that you can’t criticise a fellow just leads to a plummeting in standards like it did in singing.

  • Hilary Davan Wetton says:

    It is manifestly foolish to comment on a performance without knowing the context. I have never been to Canada, but I have had challenging experiences with US Immigration officals, but luckily only on the day before starting rehearsals. I am afraid the rôle clearly attracts some unpleasant people; the Artiste who endures this deserves sympathy, not censure. The only real question, in any case, is did she play well? A performer’s duty is to the composer – smiling at the audience is pleasant, but scarcely the key issue.

  • bratsche-scratcher says:

    I am interested in why she would wear a pair of sunglasses for a performance ? If it were because of a medical condition or temporary disfigurement ,or an un-fixable problem with lighting then that would be understandable . If not, was it because she thought they were appropriate to the character of the piece she was performing? Or was it maybe to draw attention to herself rather than the music? What’s not at doubt tho is she’s a first class pianist and there’s no such thing as bad publicity .

  • Robert says:

    Can someone please identify which Ravel piece she played as an encore?

  • Steve says:

    Typical case of one of those conductors who talk too much, if only they could just get on with the music (without reminding us of how wonderful music is…)

  • Paul Dawson says:

    NL does not seem to have qualified his ‘window dressing’ comment.

  • Andrew Eales says:

    The only “hostile” coverage/comments I have seen about any of this online were here on Slipped Disc. Other coverage (such as Pianist Magazine) has been overwhelmingly supportive towards this great artiste, praising her professionalism under difficult circumstances.

    Not only so, but the vocal audience support and even video footage prove this to have been a superb performance, with warm report between Yuja and the audience.

    So perhaps this site was too hasty in publishing what have now proved to be unwarranted and undignified criticisms.

  • Piano Lover says:

    Even if she was to play nude…who cares.
    Music above all!

  • Ivanov says:

    In this modern World of consumers always the right one has to apologise to the wrong one. May Christ have mercy on us !

  • The Voice of Reason says:

    It seems like Yuja never had any bad publicity or slight criticism in her illustrious career? These “industry plants” are so full of themselves that they start to think that their playing, and stage demeanor – are beyond reproach.

    This is one of the few Yuja reviews that is not full of glowing praise.
    Something is seriously wrong with the classical music industry, people are not even permitted to voice their honest opinion without the leftist MOB going after them.

    • V.Lind says:

      Oh, for God’s sake, keep left-right out of this. An individual, who has since apologised, criticised Yuja Wang — by subsequent accounts unjustly — for her platform demeanour. This blog presented her view as if it were gospel, and said point blank it was “accurate,” dismissing a credible source’s recounting of his discussion with Ms. Wang about the occasion as “window-dressing.” This after a headline saying there was “fury” at her, which by all other accounts to date there was not, apparently her her wearing dark glasses, which she has subsequently explained. And saying that she “blanked” the audience, which is seems pretty clear she did not.

      An “honest opinion,” which I value as well as you do, has to be based upon facts. Nothing posted originally on this subject was that. As Mr. Knightley might have said, “Badly done.”

      As for you and your respect for honest opinion: those lines in cartoons and sitcoms about “never letting the facts interfere with a good story/opinion” are meant as jokes, not as models.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    It’s a worry that she’s planning a concert like this next Jan.
    She’ll damage those hands:

    ob Carr Theater
    Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra
    Orlando, FL, United States
    Eric Jacobsen, conductor

    RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 1
    RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 4
    RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 2

  • SVM says:

    Miller had no need to apologise. She was simply exercising her right to free speech in expressing robust criticism of Wang’s stage manner. Although I find Miller’s criticism a bit over the top (I do not think there is anything seriously wrong with a performer being brusque with an audience, as Miller alleges Wang was), much of it is fairly reasonable. I agree with Miller that wearing sunglasses in performance is, in general, an unprofessional sartorial decision that cannot be justified by having had a rough time at border control.

    A person who finds such criticism offensive is oversensitive and should grow a thicker skin and/or consider whether public performance is the right career choice.

    Having said that, a performer has every right to exercise his/her free speech to respond to such criticism, especially if he/she feels that it misrepresents what happened. Given, however, that a performer is acting in a professional capacity and an audience-member is (usually) acting in a private capacity, the performer’s response can and should be accountable to a higher standard than the criticism that incited.

    • V.Lind says:

      Try a little humanity in there. She wore them because she had been crying to the detriment of her appearance. That was as a result of her encounter wit the border agents, of which we know very little. Is it too hard to imagine that it might have been rough?

      In just this morning’s Guardian Jay Rayner writes of the nearly empty streets of London’ Chinatown, home to all sorts of usually busy restaurants. London is a long way from the ground zero of this virus — it is hard to figure anything except a wish to avoid Chinese people in this boycotting.

      This young woman flew in without a lot of time to spare — she had played last night in California, not a terribly long flight away. She would have been mentally preparing for the evening’s concert, probably going over music in her head. She is a frequent visitor to Canada. This interrogation would have come out of left field.

      She was obviously upset by it. Try to walk a step or two in her (metaphorical) shoes — I would not wish her Louboutins on anyone. She still went out and by most accounts so far delivered a cracking concert — AND acknowledged her audience in her usual, offhand manner, AND offered a couple of encores.

      I think her skin is just fine.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        A little advice for her next time – or any other travelling musician. Have a ‘protege’ with you at border control who can verify your reason for travel etc.and who can manage all of life’s vicissitudes.

    • ClassicalMusicUnzipped. says:

      Agreed 10000% percent. The problem with overhyped “stars” like Yuja is that they eventually start to actually believe that they are beyond reproach. At that point, thru become artistically stale.

      I realize that this is an unpopular opinion. Mob me.

  • I missed her concert says:

    The conductor did not write an apology; her last condescending sentence makes that clear. Also, still not a word about Yuja Wang’s playing!

    Has anyone figured out what her agenda is? She is not a professional journalist or critic; she wrote this insulting garbage on her public Facebook page for all the world to see.

  • mary says:

    Too little too late.

    It was deeply sexist on the part of Tania to criticize a woman artist of basically not smiling enough.

  • NudeJa says:

    Yuja is an idol. Anything other than blind hero-worship is immediately downvoted by her “classical-lite” fans.
    I get it, strong woman, female empowerment and more feminist agenda etc.

    The slightest criticism immediately generates a huge outrage.

  • DefenderOfHonor says:

    Very sad that the conductor had to remove her original post AND the apology, which was not accepted by the Facebook crowd.

    Don’t you dare say anything that goes against popular opinion!

    What has the world come to…

    • V.Lind says:

      I am not on Facebook. What happened?

      • Melanin KING says:

        Nothing. Yuja got detained, perhaps due to some profiling on behalf of the Canadian border control. Nothing compared to what black men have to face in this country.

      • I missed her concert says:

        V. Lind: Below Respected Conductor’s commentary on F.B., many people who were at the recital passionately refuted her vitriol, and some included photographic and video evidence.

        Because this was a public post, anyone could see it, including those who aren’t on Facebook, like you and me.

        The photos and videos showed a very appreciative audience, and a soloist who was most definitely acknowledging her audience at the Chan Centre. She performed TWO encores!

        There was a particularly beautiful video of a very young girl who was “playing” piano on the edge of the balcony, and was very clearly enraptured by Yuja Wang’s artistry.

        The conductor has yet to mention anything about the music she heard.

  • Melanin KING says:

    Yuja should try being a person of color living in an urban setting.

    • Cyril says:

      Well, technically she is.

    • Larry D says:

      And suffer as unjustly as apparently you think you yourself do? (Based on your pseudonym, which I don’t remember seeing before…). Thanks for filling us in, but this is about something else entirely. It is not a victimization contest.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    As well you should apologize, Ms. Miller.
    As a musician yourself, you must be aware that human feelings such as the stress and humiliation that Yuja felt can certainly upset the normal way you make music.
    But Yuja, fine professional that she is, not only did not cancel, but according to many accounts shared on this blog, played wonderfully.
    So she wore sunglasses: big deal!
    Ms. Miller, I hope you will in the future consider OTHER people’s feelings before you go shooting off your mouth (I don’t know what the written word equivalent of that is – shooting off your pen?).

    • KMW says:

      Elitist mentality and jealousy is what is boils down to that motivated Ms. Miller to attack Yuja like she did. Shameful and absolutely wrong it was!

  • Simon S. says:

    I find the fact that Ms. Miller had to apologize TWICE for her very reasonable post and remove the original, pretty symptomatic of the extreme Politically Correct culture trend.

    Ms. Miller did not know the full story, expressed her valid opinion and remained respectful.

    In turn, she was mobbed by the Yuja fan-boys.

    As for Yuja, perhaps she should do a fundraiser now for a private jet.

    • I missed her concert says:

      Simon S., The Respected Conductor was “mobbed” on Facebook by people who attended the concert, and were upset by her inaccurate statements regarding Yuja Wang’s acknowledgement of her audience, and the warm response she received in return.

      Miller is not a professional critic, and posting her vitriol on a public forum was unnecessarily mean. She could have confined her remarks to family, friends and colleagues instead of broadcasting them to the world.

      Respected Conductor did not mention anything about the music, and left out the fact that Wang performed TWO encores.

      And her first “apology” was a very arrogant, self absorbed non-apology.

  • Miguel Cervantes says:

    If I were her, I would have gotten back on the plane and never returned to Canada again.

  • Larry D says:

    Has Karin Becker weighed in on this yet? I for one can’t wait…

  • Karl says:

    Cat fight! I see it all the time at my job when too many women work together.

  • Karin Becker says:

    A downright heartbreaking, professionally written text about deep insult by Canadian security organs, unfortunately Miss Wang does not write anything about the reasons that led to the survey. Did the artist have cocaine in a Rimowa case? Did she have the corona virus in her? Didn’t the police like the pianist’s hot pants? Open questions only. The fans are eagerly waiting for answers.

  • Hilary says:

    Context is everything as this film of Boulez wearing in this video demonstrates
    Let’s patiently wait for the explanations rather than rush to make nasty comments.

  • Victoria says:

    I give this apology a 2/10

  • Anonymous says:

    Yuja’s, or rather the rushed statement of her PR, is very vague in detail which suggests it may not be very accurate. What ever happened, the Canadian border force have strict protocols in place and handling immigration issues professionally in accordance with pre defined procedures. I wondered what their statement in response to these allegations were? Isn’t it more likely that Yuja’s red eyes and behavior simply came from her [redacted]?

  • Suogalana Egami says:

    Ms. Tania Miller, Dept. Of Damage Control

    Ms. Miller’s words sounded like an apology, but they were not. She performed several pieces of clever linguistic aKKkissing.

    Anybody out there know anything about interrogation techniques? Yeah, we all do, because we watch crime shows on TV. Here we go, good cop, bad cop.

    Ms. Miller, you get to be the good cop, the border agents will be the bad cop.

    Here we go, first thing you do, is say that you DO WANT to apologize, not that you actually ARE going to apologize. This is a subtle distinction, and some people will fall for it.

    Next, always compliment the victim, it makes them think you are on their side: “First to Yuja Wang who is an extraordinary, deeply talented and beautiful musician.” This is the KKissing part. Good cop always says something nice, like they are your friend.

    Next, re-label what happened. You didn’t disrespect and badmouth Ms. Wang, no, you merely “drew some people into a negative experience with your comment.” What? “Negative Experience?” What are you, a conductor, or some New-Age Mystical Counselor? You did not, apparently, draw people into a negative experience. No, you outright irritated us with your crude and unprofessional insults. Just read the comments. I don’t see the phrase “I had a negative experience” anywhere.

    Next, we have the delightfully arty: “My comments have been taken into a variety of directions…” No they haven’t. Almost universally, your comments have been taken as negative, unprofessional, and decidedly beneath your station as a conductor. The only direction your comments have been taken is toward the round circular hole at the bottom of a non-porous glazed ceramic water vessel.

    See, other people can write obfuscated verbiage also.

    Finally, recap with the big gesture, by wishing everybody well.

    Wow, now you are off the hook. You gave a bunch of la-la, didn’t actually apologize, and now you get to be the respected conductor again.

    Several hours later, Ms. Miller tweets again, and further mires herself:

    She apologizes for the “shock & the terrible traumatic experience that you had at the border coming into Vancouver”, which is a grand gesture, because, apologizing is a mature thing to do, so, if you apologize for something, then, you are being mature, right?

    Except Ms. Miller had nothing to do with the Canadian border affairs. She is not a concert promoter, a booking agent, or a border guard, so why is SHE apologizing about it?

    Was it because she is Canadian, and thus feels obligated to apologize on behalf of Canada? If so, the citizens of the great country of Canada would like to thank her for speaking up on their behalf. It is good to have someone of your discriminating wisdom to speak up for the poor Canadian citizens who would otherwise have no voice. Thank heavens you came to everyone’s rescue.

    Now truth time: Many of us who attended high school English learned about this little trick. Presumably, the noted author N. Lebrecht can fill her in on the subject of “Logical Fallacies”, of which the noted “Red Herring” is one. That’s right, Ms. Miller, you tossed out a red herring. You tried to divert the subject away from your actions, to somewhere else. That is low. YOU didn’t really do anything bad, it was those border agent folk.

    That is blatant good cop bad cop.

    You go on to say you are “truly sorry for adding in any way to that terrible experience”.

    No you are not. You can’t just sort of change what you said now that people are calling your judgement into question. If you were “truly sorry” you would directly address the issue by saying “I am sorry for the things I said about you.” This is obvious, because you, Ms. Miller, did NOT add to the terrible border experience, because you were not there. No, you created an ADDITIONAL insult, one that is yours alone.

    You are supposed to apologize for YOUR insult, not someone else’s.

    It is pretty apparent once you examine Ms. Miller’s words, that she is, indeed, attempting to engage in reputational damage control.


    N. Lebrecht, and Ms. T. Miller, people remember this stuff. We remember your names. Ms. Miller, you better be aware: the next concert you conduct, people WILL be looking at you, and I don’t mean at the back of your head. No, they are going to want to see your face. They are going to want to see the mean spirited woman that wrote the things you wrote about an internationally famous and much beloved traveler.

    You will hear them whisper as you walk by: “Is that her? She doesn’t look the kind of person who would say things like that… ”

    Personally, your attitude makes me not want to go to any more concerts that you are conducting. I’ll go watch other people who don’t treat musicians as automatons that jump up and down when you tell them to.

    As for your next concert, my dear Ms. Miller, why don’t you look the orchestra members directly in the eye, because, they will all know what you said, and they too, will remember. Watch carefully at how many of them discreetly turn their eyes away from you, because they are ashamed of you, and don’t wish to be directed by a person of your tarnished reputation.

    They want and need a conductor they respect, that can obtain synergy. You are not going to easily get that anymore.

    So, hats off to your new career, girl, cuz, you just really damaged your present one.

    And to the various symphonies that employ you, if your attendance falls off during concerts that are conducted by Ms. Miller, well, you will know why, won’t you.

    Your name is mud right now, you do understand that, right?

    And to N. Lebrecht, I guess you got what you wanted, eh? You have indeed increased people’s awareness of you. However, you have not increased your reputation. Just read the comments.

    All in all, when it comes to the arts, you can all see that a lot of the “art” occurs behind the scenes.

  • Tema Blackstone says:

    Unfortunately, none of you appreciate what it takes to go on stage nor to perform consistently like Yuja Wang.

    She is courageous genius but primarily a human being with feelings.
    An artist is much more sensitive than most.

    Her tremendous concentration & strength is inspiring & audiences should be ashamed.
    To hear and. Wang is a spiritual & inspiring event!
    My heart goes out to her.


  • William Duff says:

    As one of Yuja’s devoted admirers, I wish to add few of us have not had a lapse of judgement that we regret. For me, thank you Ms Miller. I would disassociate from some of the less temprate responses. Kindest regards. William.

  • eastcastle g says:

    It looks like that the facts were simply distorted by Miller. First, Yuja didn’t shut the door to the audience given the circumstance; 2nd, she did connect to the ordience whole heartedly, and 3rd the quick, deep bow is her signature posture.

  • Colin Morris says:

    Has anyone mentioned the obvious racial overtones to the initial criticism of Ms. Wang? Why would Tania Miller think she could give “audience connection” advice to one of the top artists in classical music? Why would all these amateur critics then pile on? (Including Mr Lebrecht for perpetuating and legitimizing the criticism without verifying the circumstances) Methinks that if a white pianist did the same as Ms. Wang the headline would have been “Canadian Immigration upsets star pianist”.