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Chinese pianist hailed at Carnegie for 4-hour classical music concert

Long famous for his flash and dazzle at the keyboard, pianist Lang Lang gave a surprisingly introspective concert of Bach, Schubert and Chopin at Carnegie Hall on May 29, 2012.

When 35-year-old Chinese pianist Wang Yujia, also known as Yuja Wang, finished her last note on Tuesday, she received a standing ovation from the audience. Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, commonly known as Yannick, of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra even “knelt down” after her four-hour performance at the Carnegie Music Hall. 

The repertoire she played covered all five of Rachmaninoff’s piano works – four piano concertos and the Paganini Theme Rhapsody.  

She was acclaimed as a superstar for her “once-in-a-lifetime” performance. Yannick even compared the level of her performance to climbing Mount Qomolangma, commonly known as Mount Everest in the West. 

Despite the difficulty, however, it seems she handled all the musical pieces with ease right to the last movement. Yannick noted that Wang was an “ideal pianist” for both her forceful and relaxed style of performance and that “she was born for this kind of music.”

A few days before her performance, Wang avoided intensive practice, only playing some easy pieces instead as she was trying to enter Rachmaninoff’s world and leave some time to think of the love, loneliness and hope in his music. 

Wang showed a special interest in Rachmaninoff’s music when she was young. She began to play the piano when she was 6. At the age of 14, she entered the Curtis Institute of Music in the US and began to study it even more attentively. She was enchanted by this Russian composer’s “noble and pure” music as well as the fragility expressed within it. 

After graduation, she became one of the world’s most famous stars in classical music, right up there with China’s pianist Lang Lang. 

Nowadays, many Chinese children are being sent, or even “forced,” to learn piano by their parents, who hope they can also be pianists in the future like Wang or Lang. Wang’s success also shows that her parents’ years of efforts have paid off, which must be very encouraging for other parents in China. 

According to The Paper, there are over 40 million children learning piano in China. The huge market has also given birth to a comprehensive extracurricular education system for this art, adding a fortune to China’s diverse education.