Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Musical America Artist of the Year for 2017:
She represents a new breed — the complete, thoroughly modern package. Wearing stunning gowns chosen specifically to match the repertoire she is playing, she has cultivated a persona of visual beauty as well as musical brilliance. And then there are those dynamite encores — wow!
In a recent video for Giorgio Armani, Musical America’s Artist of the Year, Yuja Wang, performs Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel, the work’s dark, dulcet tones swirling against a dimly lit backdrop of piano and pianist as the music gently weaves a spell of soulful mystery. The performance, technically impeccable and full of subdued passion, is intercut with images of Yuja in a variety of tasteful fashion poses. There was a time when this would have raised eyebrows, along with protestations about classical music’s chaste role in a world full of commercial taint. Welcome to the 21st century, when women play the piano as well as men and feel free to flaunt their other gifts as well.
On the off-chance that you might have wanted to hear the entirety of Gretchen am Spinnrade:
She is, after all, only thirty, so I can believe this:
She has a keen interest in popular culture as well. Hence her attention to fashion, as well as her usual reported practice of listening to rock music before stepping out on stage. She uses Spotify to keep on top of new things, and goes to live concerts as often as possible. Though she values working with older masters, she loved performing with Gustavo Dudamel’s Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolivar (“What a crazy bunch of outrageous musicians!”) partly because they are mostly her age, and their youthful outlook matched her own. After the concert, she reports, they could all agree, “Let’s go to a bar and listen to electronic music.”
A party girl? Who knew?
Here, she plays some fiendishly difficult Bartók, with Dudamel at the helm of the Los Angeles Philarmonic:
You’ve had a rough night, mademoiselle. Is there somewhere we can take you?