Chinese pianist Wang's childhood colors Bucharest concert

Wed Sep 4, 2013 7:20am EDT
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By Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Reed-thin and tiny, Yuja Wang looks too small to handle a shiny black Steinway concert grand piano. Yet when she was done, her powerful, nuanced playing got her a standing ovation in Bucharest.

The critically acclaimed Wang, 26, often draws attention and headlines for playing in body-hugging dresses and stilettos, but what awed the audience at the George Enescu music festival on Tuesday night was her strength, accuracy and grace.

At Romania's biennial classical music festival, Wang played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 to a packed hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck.

Although she is Chinese and the music was Russian, it is a repertoire she knows well, and about which she has fond childhood memories.

"That is the first music I heard, my mom brought me to a rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake'," Wang told Reuters in an interview following a rehearsal on the day of the performance.

"There is no other music that speaks more directly to the heart."

Born in Beijing to a dancer and a percussionist father who inspired her love of jazz, she started playing at age six on the piano her parents had received as a wedding gift. She left China at 14 and completed her studies in the United States.

Since then, she has taken the music world by storm, touring and performing with prestigious orchestras and conductors including Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado.   Continued...