Yuja almost tripped over her dress after flying over Prokofiev.

According to the program notes, Wang Yuja had been praised for her “graceful, charismatic stage presence.” Luckily, in her recent Toronto recital, Wang didn’t try to be either graceful or charismatic. She was just being her musically intense self. She bowed vigorously before the performance and then sat down at the piano. Now, the music started: Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin, Prokofiev … during the very brief pauses of those busy piano notes, you might have curiously looked at the pianist’s facial expression, and then you realized, the whole audience of the Koerner Hall might just not be here as well: she played for herself and she enjoyed every bit of it.

That’s probably the most important trait of a truly great modern artist. Perfection is not about charm or beauty: it’s about characters, which Wang Yuja has in abundance under her extraordinary technical mastery. I was not least surprised at the supreme power and coolness in her rendering of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 6, but I was stunned by the absolute musicality of her first encore, Chopin’s Waltz Op. 64 No. 2, which was meant to give the audience (and the pianist herself?) a sense of relief after Prokofiev’s nerve-wracking piece. Arthur Kaptainis called the encore “the zenith of the recital”. Indeed.

(Come to think of it, wasn’t Prokofiev trying to hide his Romantic lyricism under layers of mechanical strength? Is modern individuality another disguise of old universal idealism?)

The music stopped. The audience were on their feet again. The pianist stood up, gave another vigorous bow (as if to say: “There you go”) and then rushed towards the backstage. The young lady almost tripped over her very long red dress, but there was a bit genuine smile on her face. Probably now she started to appreciate the audience’s appreciation of her.

Wang Yuja then (10 years ago?):

Yuja Wang now:


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