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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/13/19

Yuja's Belly Button

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages) (# of views)   12 comments
Author 512932
Message Al Hirschfield

I grew up in the 60s. This was the time of the "British Invasion", and I guess there are probably fewer and fewer people still around who can say that they remember when the Beatles' "She Loves You" first appeared on the radio. It may now be impossible to explain to young people just how different the world was back then, and the role the Beatles played in changing it. When I'm asked to try, the best I can do is make some feeble attempt such as: it was actually against FCC rules to say the word "pregnant" over the airways, Coca Cola would never have even dreamt of mentioning its competitors in an ad, and "College Professor" was, invariably, named as the most respected profession. But, in actuality, I think it's probably a lost cause.

And, a very clever fellow I once knew said that it would be impossible for my generation to understand what Frank Sinatra meant to his generation.

So it goes...

In any event, the change I think had a lot to do with what back then was regarded as "progress" (as in progressive"). The cultural elites were quite sure that we had been making some kind of "progress" right from the moment we stepped out of the primordial slime, up to when the Enlightenment virtues of Freedom, Equality, Reason, etc seemed to have established a firm foothold within the March of Nations.

This may seem somewhat naive now to some. The cynical, of course, always knew things could never really change, human nature being what it is. And, in any event, life was ultimately about the pursuit of happiness, which generally means a nice car, house and some sweet vacations.

The above is pretty much stated as thus (without the particulars) in the Declaration of Independence (or were we really expected to think they were referring to the reading of Shakespeare and regularly performing community service?).

Well, yeah, yeah, yeah: the Beatles went a long way towards changing all that. One could spend any number of volumes trying to explain this (and countless already have), but your prayers have been answered and I will spare you that. I will commit nonetheless perhaps the ultimate absurdity and try and sum up at least part of the cultural shift accomplished by the Fab Four in one word: Fun. Yes, the Middle Ages were officially over, and science could be left to the eggheads. Let's party!

Don't get me wrong, I was as smitten by John, Paul, George and WhatsHisName as anyone. My sister once said that she once saw John Lennon walking down 5th Avenue in New York and had the feeling that her entire childhood had just passed before her. I knew exactly what she meant.

So what does all have to do with "Yuja"? What is a "Yuja", anyway?

For those of you who don't know, she is one the most controversial, and respected, classical piano prodigies of her generation (she's now 32). She's controversial because of the "nontraditional" attire which she wears onstage (i.e she is very hot). She's respected because she's been performing since a tot, and made her European debut playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich at the age of 16. What catapulted her to "superstar status" was when the legendary conductor Claudio Abbado asked her to open one of the major international music festivals with him after hearing her play for 5 minutes at a birthday party (she was only 21 at the time).

I don't know how I came across Yuja. I think I probably noticed her while looking for something on Youtube. I have since watched a number of documentaries about her (Janet Malcolm wrote a profile of her for the "New Yorker" magazine in 2016: Yuja Wang and the Art of Performance). Yuja has inspired something akin to awe in me not just because of extraordinary musicianship (Ms. Malcolm spoke of her as equals with none other than Murray Perahia) but the effortlessness with which she seems to integrate the classical tradition with a full-tilt Generation X (or is it "Z"?) existence: complete with addiction to modern technology, and the putting of Radiohead, Rhianna and Black Eyed Peas on an aesthetic par with Prokoviev.

So what does this have to do with the Beatles? I guess I should have written this when I had completely figured that out (please don't be shy to speak up if you have some thoughts). But, somehow she gives me a lot of hope. Her ability to be so transcendentally well-adjusted, while living what I would imagine to be one of the most demanding existences imaginable; that of a very young, international classical pianist.

Perhaps she's simply one of the still underappreciated archetypes of a New Age, one that successfully synthesizes all that's come before, with this very fractured, disjointed present which we currently inhabit.

I'll just share two (or three...) of my favorite documentaries of Yuja with you:

This is the first one I saw. It's really a wonderful peek inside her daily life while preparing to perform at Carnegie Hall:

Yuja Wang: The Documentary

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US Tax Attorney with a somewhat radical political bent.

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4 people are discussing this page, with 12 comments


Rob Kall

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Comment by Rob Kall:

Oh, come on. I grew up then too. You're not that old if you remember when She Loves You came out. There are tens of millions of Americans who remember

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019 at 5:44:20 PM

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Al Hirschfield

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Tens of millions? I guess, maybe. I guess I'm just starting to feel way over the hill. I barely have the energy to finish... this...

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019 at 8:58:27 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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I would rather think about Yuja's music or her belly button than how old and decrepit you two youngsters are getting. Thank you for bringing that bright star into my world.

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 14, 2019 at 9:24:44 AM

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Al Hirschfield

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Reply to Chuck Nafziger:   New Content

It's people such as yourself, Charles, that makes this all worth while.

Perhaps it's inappropriate, but you might be interested in a couple of comments posted by fans of Yuja's which were posted on another website where I placed this same article:


This one was posted by someone for whom it was apparently only the 2nd time they'd ever made a comment in the almost 15 years of being a member (I checked their homepage):


"Ms Wang is amazing. I've driven from North Carolina to Los Angeles to see her perform Gershwin at the Hollywood Bowl, to North Bethesda, Maryland, and the most remarkable Carnegie Hall for Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. She is a stellar talent. I might be this close to being a stalker. But I live to hear her do Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto. Simply stunning."


And this: " ...as a person of your generation, I must admit Yuja caught my eye before she caught my ear. I like to listen to classical music, especially piano concertos, so finding her on YouTube was a great experience. I have no music training, so I wouldn't notice the difference between the Cleveland Symphony and the University of Akron orchestra if it played in the background, but I am truly amazed by Yuja Wang's artistry and listen to her every day."


Okay, one more by popular demand:


"She's currently my favorite pianist who regularly records and performs live. I've been a Yuge fan ever since she literally Rocked my world a number of years ago. Luckily, she performs in Los Angeles frequently at both the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall. Coincidentally, I was fortunate enough to see her play with the LA Philharmonic once again last week. Simply sublime. She has a way of making the impossible seem effortless. And she always makes time after performances to meet with fans, and graciously signs anything - and everything - one might ask her to. Glad to know that I'm not the only one who shares such affection for her on [this website]."


Submitted on Thursday, Nov 14, 2019 at 1:02:13 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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Reply to Al Hirschfield:   New Content

Just from the videos you linked, I can easily understand the stellar appreciation of her artistry expressed in the above comments. I did not start playing music until I was 65, but I have always appreciated it, all the way back to Dorthy Collins and the Hit Parade. Yuja's virtuosity exploded in my mind. Incredible!

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 14, 2019 at 6:07:47 PM

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Al Hirschfield

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Reply to Chuck Nafziger:   New Content

I'd actually be quite interested in how a man of your wisdom and experience would come down on the Beatles vs Sinatra question. Was Frankie indeed a far more meaningful and profound influence on his generation than you believe the Beatles were on mine, as my friend once said?

Thanks.

Submitted on Friday, Nov 15, 2019 at 12:59:42 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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Reply to Al Hirschfield:   New Content

I remember them as crooners. I was an inbetween shaken up by Elvis. Sinatra had a great voice and could capture an emotion, but I remember him just as much for being a thug. He was a little guy with big burly friends and lots of money. But in my memory, there was nothing bigger than the Beatles.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 at 12:55:52 AM

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Al Hirschfield

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Reply to Chuck Nafziger:   New Content

Ah, that helps.

Thanks!

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 at 2:35:26 AM

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David Watts

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I can't say I remember She Loves You coming out. I was probably too busy listening to You Really Got Me. But I'm not sure the Kinks belong in a conversation about Yuja. Thank you for introducing me to Yuja and her majestical piano majesty. She is really something else... which just so happens to be the name of a great KINKS album. The most beautiful rock song ever as said by many? Waterloo Sunset.



Waterloo Sunset ~ The Kinks ~ Live 1973 London UK 24 January 1973.
(Image by YouTube, Channel: WoogieTheCat)
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Submitted on Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 at 7:40:57 AM

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Al Hirschfield

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

There's a wonderful scene in the film "Hilary and Jackie", about the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre where she and her husband Daniel Barenboim are playing chamber music with friends in their home and during a break, Barenboim's hands inadvertently hit a chord on the piano, and then a slightly different chord, he cocks his neck as if surprised to have stumbled onto this particular chord, and before you know it the entire ensemble has launched into one of the most intense versions of "You Really Got Me" ever performed. It's actually one of my favorite movie scenes, which, alas, I couldn't find on Youtube....

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 16, 2019 at 9:12:53 AM

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David Watts

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Reply to Al Hirschfield:   New Content

Shoot. You got me interested. I tried to look for it too, no luck. But thanks. :)

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 at 5:47:23 AM

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Al Hirschfield

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

The whole film is really excellent and worth seeing. It'll come up eventually...

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 17, 2019 at 8:56:09 AM

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