Twenty-five-year-old pianist Yuja Wang, one of the most talked-about artists in classical music, appears with the San Francisco Symphony this week, performing Rachmaninoff’s beloved Third Piano Concerto, featured in the movie “Shine.”
You are a bright star of an art form some believe will be gradually phased out. What do you think is the value of performance art ?
Classical music is an expression that associates modern activity and the emotions around us. Music enriches life and I cannot see it as lifeless.There is new music being written as we speak. A concert goes by very quickly, but the originality of what great artists create, that is what captures people. And that is what counts, not how quickly we can play. I think it’s a necessity to listen to this kind of music — with the mind and with the heart. As long as we have intelligent people, which we do, it will live on.
Even though you receive rave reviews from critics around the world, as an artist, are you searching for something better?
Everything needs to be balanced. I’m very faithful to the text, but creatively, I try not to be too dogmatic. I think every day, whether musician or other, we need to strive to be better, to make a difference. The worst thing is if I stand still and be satisfied.
What is the most attractive element in Rachmaninoff’s music?
There is this feeling of improvisation in his writing, which leaves room for change at every performance. The (Third Piano Concerto) is very intelligently structured, the texture’s a bit Mahlerian, and it is enchanting, very moving music.
What are your thoughts about Michael Tilson Thomas, with whom you have worked since you were 17?
I think he is the most inspiring mentor for me. I remember the first time I played for him, I was left speechless and flabbergasted. He is very creative and has incredible knowledge. He really opened up my imagination, my sound world. I am really looking forward to what he has to tell me about the piece, which he’s conducted with many great pianists.
Is a big career in classical music everything you dreamed it would be?
One thing I really did not expect was the traveling and the airport security. It’s been exhausting to be checked every day at a different airport!
IF YOU GO
Presented by the San Francisco Symphony
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $15 to $145
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org