Forever young

Updated: 2012-11-30 10:24

By Chen Jie (China Daily)

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Forever young

[Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Now a New Yorker, Chinese pianist Wang Yuja enjoys making an annual encore in her hometown, Chen Jie reports.

On the day she attended the press conference at the National Center for the Performing Arts more than three years ago, pianist Wang Yuja was not wearing any make-up.

Her mother had just taken her to buy a "formal suit" in Xidan, the nearest shopping area to the NCPA. It was a local brand, a simple white shirt and cream pants. They were in such a hurry, or maybe the sales girl was too careless, that Wang wore the security tag to the press conference.

The June 2009 recital was her first since she left to study abroad in 1999. She has returned every year since with concerts or a new album. Last week, she brought both concerts and a recording.

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When she saw the press this time on the morning after her NCPA concert, she was nicely dressed and smoky-eyed. The previous night, in a sexy purple one-strap dress, she played in a sold-out concert with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

Asked how she feels returning to the same hall every year, she giggles and blurts out, "I'm getting old."

Who would think 25 is "old" as a rising pianist? But even at 22 in 2009, she said: "I'm not young. I was young when Earl Blackburn (manager to such artists as pianist Lang Lang, violinist Vadim Repin and conductor John Nelson) signed me at 16."

"When I gave my first recital at 7, I thought 16 would be very old and I would not play by that time. I wanted to be a scientist or engineer, a profession that 'uses brain'."

"I cannot say how much I enjoy the career. It's like any job - you enjoy it sometimes and don't other times. But like being a dancer or athlete, there's no turning back. It requires you to be tough both physically and mentally.

"But anyway, when you feel lonely or sad, you can play the piano or even hit the keys."

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