Pianist Wang Yujia's China tour brings classical music closer to the people
Published: Dec 27, 2023 07:33 PM
Young pianist Wang Yujia (left, front) Photo: Xinhua

Young pianist Wang Yujia (left, front) Photo: Xinhua

Pianist Wang Yujia, who is considered to be one of the most dynamic performers on the classical music scene, recently concluded her China tour at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. It had been seven years since her last performance at the venue.

It was also Wang's first China tour in three years, which was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. 

Over 19 days, she performed 12 shows in nine cities, each a sell-out. Tickets were sold out within two minutes in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and some additional sessions were announced, which were also sold out. Prices of the tickets on second-hand trading platforms exceeded 5,000 yuan ($699.85), reported domestic media TheBund. 

Wang's unique position in the classical music world is marked by her exceptional skill. Meanwhile, some argue that her fashion choices and performing style challenge the traditional image of a classical musician. With all the attention she has received, she has become a unique star, reaching beyond the usual audience of conventional classical music.

On December 12, her recital in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, was a huge success. She was dressed in a beautiful white skirt. She enthusiastically engaged with the audience, receiving 12 encores.  

However, her mass appeal also brought challenges. Some people who are not familiar with the recital etiquette were among her audiences. For instance, the disruptive behaviors of some audience members in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, supposedly led to an encore being cut short. It was reported that there were some people shooting videos, using flashlights and there were also noises such as phones ringing, people coughing loudly and dropping things on the ground. Many in the audience raised their eyebrows and expressed their annoyance at the behaviors of these audience members. Those who were new to recital etiquette and made these honest mistakes were quick to correct their behaviors.  

As some media reports pointed out, even though the general public still lacks the  recital etiquette and a deeper appreciation for classic music, Wang's tour has brought a wider audience closer to the world of classical music. It is a good start and step forward.

Internationally, Wang has dominated the stage since her 2007 breakthrough, at the age of 21, when she stepped in for Martha Argerich as piano soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, she signed an exclusive recording contract with the esteemed Deutsche Grammophon. This year, she was selected by Gramophone, the classical music magazine as one of "50 of the greatest classical pianists on record," and she was the only Chinese pianist to make the list. 

For young musicians in China and around the world, Wang is more than an artist. She is a source of inspiration. Her story resonates with aspiring artists, encouraging them to dream big and work hard.

At the same time, known for her vibrant attire of bright colors and bold designs, along with her dynamic style, Wang has faced criticism in the past with some harshly labeling her as being an attention-seeker. She believes in being true to herself, stating, "I will not change. People will gradually adapt. I just want to be myself."

Wang breaks stereotypes and introduces a new, more inclusive vision of what a classical musician can be. She represents a new era of diversity and individuality in classical music.

"Musician living life with curiosity and passion," Wang wrote in the profile of her social media account. Her talent and artistic expression continually surprise audiences. Facing comparisons with China's male piano virtuoso Lang Lang, she humorously rejects the label of "female Lang Lang," aspiring instead to be the "male Wang Yuja." 

In addition to her talent, Wang's charisma and resilience have made her a role model, inspiring a new generation of bold, talented Chinese women who defy stereotypes and embrace individuality. Wu Yanni is a star hurdler who refuses to be labeled as the female Liu Xiang, and China's mixed martial arts athlete Zhang Weili, who stands as a symbol of strength and resilience, using her platform to highlight national pride and confront prejudices. Comedian Yang Li, known for her sharp wit and satirical commentary on gender dynamics, has faced significant backlash but continues to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in Chinese comedy. 

Through their efforts and talent, all of these women are shaping a new image of powerful, individualistic Chinese women. They embody confidence, influence and a willingness to embrace diversity and shoulder responsibilities.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.