“I had a talent for jumping in for others, to do something quickly,” said Yuja Wang recently in an interview with Stern magazine. And, according to the pianist, this talent has played a decisive role in her successful career. Today, the Chinese-born pianist is one of the global stars of her instrument, but standing in for others is still her metier: after Lang Lang had to cancel his concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker scheduled for November 2017, Yuja Wang agreed to step in for the concerts in Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shanghai and Tokyo, in which she will be the soloist in Béla Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto.
Virtuoso, brilliant, enthralling
Her mother actually wanted Yuja Wang to be a dancer. But the artist from Beijing knew that the only parts of her that could dance were her fingers. And these allowed the Chinese pianist, who studied at the music conservatory in her home town, at Mount Royal College in Calgary and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, to fly over the keyboard at breathtaking speed. Yuja Wang has already shown in Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation concerts that in addition to her stupendous technique, she also has an extraordinary flair for musical nuance: both at her debut recital in 2013 and at her orchestral debut in 2015 when she performed Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto. The tenor of the reviews was that her confident performance of the demanding work was wild and impetuous but at the same time totally effortless. The pianist will also perform the Russian composer’s third piano concerto in April 2018 under the direction of Kirill Petrenko. In addition, she makes two appearances this season at the Philharmonie with a piano recital and a chamber music concert.
In search of the perfect sound
For Seong-Jin Cho, who replaces Lang Lang in performances of Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major in Berlin and on tour in Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Seoul, this will be the first time he has worked together with the Berliner Philharmoniker. The career of the musician, who comes from Seoul, was launched with two spectacular competition wins: in 2011, he won third prize at the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow – at just 17 years of age. Four years later, he won the prestigious Chopin competition in Warsaw – the first Korean to do so. He is regarded as one of the most promising pianists of his generation and now performs all over the world. Seong-Jin Cho, whose role models include Krystian Zimerman and Radu Lupu, impresses with his immaculate technique, but for him, this is not what counts most: “For me, it is the sound that is most important,” as he said in an interview for radio station BR-Klassik. “Sometimes it’s very hard to figure out the right sound. It’s something that needs a lot of experience and a lot of time.”