“There is nothing new under the sun.”

Yuja Wang is coming to town this October! Her upcoming concert, one in which she will handle the audience at the Hill Auditorium, will be an excitement for me. As a warm-up, here is a nice trailer, in which Wang plays Rachmaninov with Mahler Chamber orchestra.

Yet the 24-year-old pianist has received perhaps as much controversy as applause. There are several things that are unusual about her. To me, she is like the “Lady Gaga” among pianists. In terms of serious instrumental expertise, she is stunning and gorgeous. Yet she is somewhat gorgeous in a bloody way – I could even sense her bloods of passion shooting out of her fingers as she plays. Besides, as one of my friends commented, she is dressed up in a sexy way for performances, sometimes too sexy for a serious professional pianist. I don’t mind. I enjoy this style, and I believe many concertgoers at my age enjoy it too. It is like the Lady Gaga maniac – you don’t completely like her, but the thing that you frown up is exactly the thing that attracts you into it.

Besides Wang being “inappropriately sexy”, a recent NYT article resembles another direction of controversy that young stars like Wang usually will face. Technical proficiency of today’s pianists is astonishing, and will seem impossible to a pianist from last century. Those who made the “four-minute mile” in professional performance are pushing the frontier of the limit even further. However, as some worried, the extraordinary technical achievements are emerging at the cost of the “poetic side”, something latent, and something far beyond the mastery of the keyboard or the strings.

Interestingly, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes (as I am), be sure to recall his famous quote: There is nothing new under the sun. The success of Yuja Wang, among many others, reflects the reality of our time. The expanding of modern educational techniques and availability of computational tools, for example, has led to the flourishing of technically-capable researchers at pretty young age. Exposure to technical tools is open and wide; professional training is standardized and obtainable. Shall we cheer for this, as we do for Yuja Wang, or, shall we reserve our worries?

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  • By “So fun to play” « Definitely Maybe on September 6, 2011 at 12:36 am

    […] Wang commented in the trailer that I recommended in my previous post that, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov is “so fun to play”. I agree. […]

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