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Another Wang Tickles the Ivories

May 27, 2014

WangThere is a good reason Yuja Wang prefers to be called Yuja: "Wang," the romanization of several Chinese surnames written differently but sounding alike, is the most common surname in mainland China (of 1.34 billion).

Given those numbers, there must be many pianists with that surname, but the subject of this item is just one: Xiayin Wang, whose Rachmaninov CD is being released today by Chandos. The disc includes Piano Sonatas 1 and 2, and Preludes.

So many years after the Yellow River Piano Concerto, it feels somewhat dated for a Chinese artist to wonder about her acceptance in the West, but Xiayin Wang does it anyway:

I understand the point of how people categorize pianists from different nationalities and associate them with only their national music. But music is a truly international language, and music from different places still have similar ways in common to touch people. In fact, how one is moved by music doesn’t have to do with where it’s coming from, but the way it was written or the composer’s motivation or how the listener associates with it.

I have a love for colourful, emotional music that gets me motivated, that something inside me can have a conversation with when I play it. It might happen to be French, Russian, American or Chinese. At the age of eight or nine I was introduced to American jazz in Shanghai. I loved it, the rhythms, the lush chords, the harmonies.

Having been educated in the classics at Shanghai Conservatory, and receiving a technical foundation, she came to the U.S. where she found a different environment "because the teaching strategies are very different here. You are encouraged to think much more freely about the musicality, about the possibilities of how a piece can be played. And that gave me more space to identify who I am as a musician."

Her identity turned out to be strongly influenced by American music, performing and recording Barber, Copland, and Gershwin, and preparing new music written for her by Richard Danielpour, Marc Chan, Sean Hickey, and others. For examples of her range, see her play Wilde-Gershwin Etude No. 3, "The Man I Love" and the Schumann Piano Concerto.

Today, as her CD is released, Xiayin Wang is performing works by Hickey, Fauré, and Saint-Saëns at the Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Concert Hall in New York.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].