This seems to be the season of spectacular pianists for the University Musical Society. With Andras Schiff, Louis Lortie and the classical music superstar Lang Lang all visiting Ann Arbor, it would be easy to overlook what may well be the most important concert this year – Yuja Wang at Hill Auditorium.
In a decade during which classical music is increasingly dominated by adept and adaptable Asian artists, it’s no surprise to see another Chinese virtuoso. Sentiment in the field has easily placed China at the top of the list of hotbeds for new talent. At the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a school generally considered the leading piano conservatory in the nation, seven out of twenty students are Chinese. One of those students is Yuja Wang.
It’s understandable if there’s some confusion here. She is a student, yet she’s performing in a full-scale concert hall with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic – at age 20. Yuja Wang is that good.
She first emerged on the scene in North America when she replaced Radu Lupu to perform a concerto by Beethoven. Since then, she has performed with some of the greatest orchestras in the nation – including the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony and the Houston Symphony – and has been hailed as energetic, fearless and extravagantly gifted, combining her precision on the keys with passionate performance.
Her pieces for Sunday’s concert are demanding and will no doubt serve as an excellent display of her artistry. Ravel’s La Valse in particular is known not just as one of the most expressive and evocative waltz pieces, but also as an infamously technical and difficult work. The rest of the program is equally impressive, including Liszt, Bartók and Scriabin.
Although the current media darling, Lang Lang, won’t arrive until early April, Yuja may very well be his equal. Wang trains under Gary Graffman, the same instructor Mr. Lang once had. Her future looks incredibly bright. This is a rare opportunity, in a genre often dominated by older, experienced artists, to see a true virtuoso before she’s established as a world-renowned figure.
Sunday at 4 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium