Yuja Wang is a Chinese classical pianist. She was born in Beijing, began studying piano there at age six, and went on to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. By the age of 21, she was already an internationally recognized concert pianist, giving recitals around the world. She has a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Wang tours internationally and has received critical praise for her performances. Her clothing choices in performance have also attracted attention. Yuja Wang lives in New York City.
Wang comes from an artistic family. Her mother, Zhai Jieming, is a dancer and her father, Wang Jianguo, is a percussionist. Both live in Beijing.
Wang began studying piano at age six. At age seven, she began seven years of study at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music. At 11, Wang entered the Morningside Music Bridge International Music Festival (at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta) as the festival's youngest student.
At age 15, Wang entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied for five years with Gary Graffman and was graduated in 2008. Graffman said that Wang's technique impressed him during her audition, but "it was the intelligence and good taste" of her interpretations that distinguished her.
In 1998, Wang won third prize in the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists in Ettlingen, Germany. In 2001, she won third prize and the special jury prize (awarded to an especially superior finalist of less than 20 years in age, prize money of 500,000 Japanese Yen) in the piano section at the first Sendai International Music Competition in Sendai, Japan.
In 2002, Wang won the Aspen Music Festival concerto competition.
In 2003, Wang made her European debut with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Switzerland, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 under the baton of David Zinman. She made her North American debut in Ottawa in the 2005–2006 season, replacing Radu Lupu performing that Beethoven concerto with Pinchas Zukerman conducting.
On September 11, 2005, Wang was named a 2006 biennial Gilmore Young Artist Award winner, given to the most promising pianists age 22 and younger. As part of the award, she received $15,000, appeared at Gilmore Festival concerts, and had a new piano work commissioned for her.
In 2006, Wang made her New York Philharmonic debut at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival. The following season, she performed with the orchestra under Lorin Maazel during a tour of Japan and Korea by the Philharmonic.
In March 2007, Wang's breakthrough came when she replaced Martha Argerich in concerts held in Boston. Argerich had cancelled her appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on four subscription concerts from March 8 to 13. Wang performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Charles Dutoit conducting.
In 2008, Wang toured the U.S. with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields led by Sir Neville Marriner. In 2009, she performed as a soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, led by Michael Tilson Thomas at Carnegie Hall. Wang performed with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado in Beijing, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Spain and in London, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2009, Wang performed and recorded Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G Minor with Kurt Masur at the Verbier Festival, accompanied by Kirill Troussov, David Aaron Carpenter, Maxim Rysanov, Sol Gabetta, and Leigh Mesh. Her performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" is featured on the Verbier Festival highlights DVD from 2008.
In 2012, Wang toured with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Zubin Mehta in Israel and the U.S., with a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York in September.
Wang toured Asia in November 2012 with the San Francisco Symphony and its conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.
In February 2013, Wang performed and recorded Prokofiev's Concerto No. 2 and Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 with Conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Venezuelan Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. Also in 2013, Wang's recital tour of Japan culminated with her recital debut at Tokyo's Suntory Hall.
Wang made her Berlin Philharmonic debut in May 2015, performing Sergei Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto with Conductor Paavo Järvi. The performance was broadcast live through the orchestra's Digital Concert Hall.
In a departure from her previously predominantly Russian repertoire, she played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9, the Jeunehomme, in February 2016 at David Geffen Hall in New York on four successive nights with Charles Dutoit conducting, then, in her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev in Munich and Paris. In March 2016, Wang played for three nights in Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. In a recital at Carnegie Hall in May 2016, she played Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 29, the Hammerklavier, and two Brahms Ballades and Robert Schumann's Kreisleriana.
Wang performed with the National Youth Orchestra of China for its Carnegie Hall premiere on July 22, 2017, with conductor Ludovic Morlot of the Seattle Symphony, performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor.
Orchestras and performances
In 2019, she paid tribute to Kennedy Center Honoree Michael Tilson Thomas with a rendition of "You Come Here Often?".
As of 2020, Wang has performed with many orchestras in the U.S., including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Washington. Internationally, she has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, China Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Orquesta Nacional de España, Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra Mozart, and Santa Cecilia.