Critical superlatives and audience ovations have continuously followed superstar Yuja Wang’s dazzling career. The Beijing-born classical pianist, celebrated for her charismatic artistry and captivating stage presence, and her “combination of technical ease, colouristic range and sheer power has always been remarkable… but these days there is an ever-greater depth to her musicianship, drawing you into the world of each composer with compelling immediacy”, raved the Financial Times.
Born into a family of artists, Yuja began playing the piano at the age of six and was quickly recognised as an exceptional talent, attending the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia at 15.
Her international breakthrough came in 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, she signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon and has since established her place among the world’s leading artists with a succession of critically acclaimed performances and recordings with an inquisitive approach to the repertoire which ranges from Mozart to Gershwin. In 2017 she was named Musical America’s Artist of the Year.
Last April, Yuja returned to London’s Royal Festival Hall, dedicating her recital to the memory of the great Romanian pianist Radu Lupu, who died three years earlier. In his Guardian review, Andrew Clements wrote that it was a “flamboyant, brilliantly virtuosic performance, where everything was technically dazzling, every detail crisp and perfectly articulated, with chords exactly weighted and precisely placed… Wang’s play is irresistible.”
Yuja signed and dedicated my sketch after her Festival Hall concert.
The ever popular Chinese classical pianist Yuja Wang returned to London just before Christmas to a packed, returns-only Wigmore Hall recital with violinist leoniadas Kavakos.
Starting at the age of six, Yuja rose to prominence and became an internationally recognised concert pianist by the age of 20. “For me, playing music is about transporting to another way of life, another way of being,” she said in an LA Times interview.
In 2017 she was named Musical America’s Artist of the Year. Apart from her musical skills and technique she is known for her ‘especially correct posture, elegant, nearly exemplary’ and her eye-catching attire and glamorous stage presence.
Yuja signed this drawing I left at Wigmore Hall, returning it this week.
Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero returned to London over the festive season with a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall.
“Whether she’s hurling ferocious social-media rebukes at the government of her native Venezuela or contouring fiery interpretations on the ivories, Gabriela Montero is never dull. You don’t come out of her recitals thinking, as you do with many modern pianists, ‘Amazing technique. Where’s the charisma?’ She had second helpings when the plates of personality were handed out,” wrote the Time critic Richard Morrison in his review intro.
Apart from her classical repertoire, Gabriela is also known for her real-time improvisation of complex musical pieces based on themes suggested by her audience. She signed this sketch for me before her recital at Wigmore Hall.
Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter rose to global attention when she was awarded the 2006 Gilmore Artist Award, one of only a handful of pianists to have received the honour. The Gilmore Artist Award is presented to an exceptional pianist. Over two years, the Gilmore committee listened to artists from around the world in search of a “truly exceptional” candidate. The Award’s director Daniel Gustin said, “We were unanimously swept away by Ingrid Fliter’s astonishing prowess and her overall musicianship.”
Ingrid has established a reputation as one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Chopin. Geoffry Norris in The Independent stated “Ingrid Fliter was born to play Chopin with power and passion and is completely at one with the music’s demands of agility, vim and vigour, but also possesses the essential quality of impeccable taste to preserve the music’s poetic perspective.”
Ingrid divides her time between Europe and the US and last week she played the Royal Albert Hall in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra under conductor Juraj Valcuha, where she signed my sketch.
Paris-based Georgian virtuoso pianist Khatia Buniatishvili has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in the music world and is considered one of the great and certainly popular concert performers of our time, with her electrifying stage presence.
The 27 year old has introduced to the piano at an early age by her mother and her extraordinary talent was soon recognised. She gave her debut performance as a soloist with a chamber orchestra at the age of 6 in her hometown of Tbilisi, although she did not regard herself as child prodigy.
Winner of the bronze medal at the 12th Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition in 2008, Khatia was also recognised as the Best Performer of a Chopin piece and the Audience Favourite.
Critics emphasise that her playing style, which is influenced by Georgian Folk music, has an aura of elegant solitude and even melancholy. Khatia sees this as a positive attribute. “The piano is the blackest instrument… a symbol of minimal solitude,” she said.
In his five star review in the Evening Standard of Khatia’s recent London recital, Barry Millington, under the headline “heart-melting, hair-raising and utterly intoxicating, ” said, “there are performers who exploit extremes of dynamic and tempo, but musically fail to convince. The Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili is emphatically not one of those. She demonstrated keyboard magic of exceptional sensitivity… and jaw-dropping virtuoso technique.”
After that performance at Wigmore Hall last Wednesday evening I met the charismatic and charming Khatia at the artist’s entrance. We managed to find some shelter from the persistent drizzle under the doorway where she signed a couple of sketches with her distinctive flowing ribbon signature and kind comments for me.