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Pianist Yuja Wang On Whirlwind Touring, Zubin Mehta, and That Little Dress She Wore On Stage at The Hollywood Bowl

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The American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic is a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining the financial future of the Israel Philharmonic, and the AFIPO allows for the Israel Philharmonic to come to the United States to perform on a regular basis. Thankfully, the orchestra will be in town next Tuesday, the 30th, led by former LA Phil director Zubin Mehta. We spoke with Yuja Wang, the soloist for Chopin's First Piano Concerto.

Yuja Wang is one of those rare up-and-coming musicians whose name mainstream audiences should be familiar with. Known for her fiery renditions of great Romantic pieces, she travels around the world and performs with all the top orchestras and conductors on a regular basis. Currently, she is on tour with the Israel Philharmonic, and we talked to her about her busy schedule, her many collaborations, and the perception of others regarding her, especially after the mini-dress "incident" at the Hollywood Bowl that sparked a lot of debate within the local community.

LAist: In a span of 10 days, you will leave Israel to perform in New York, San Francisco, Palm Desert, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and then San Francisco again(!) before heading to Macau...

Wang: Believe it or not, I of course get jetlagged! I'm just like everyone else. In my travels I always take my iPad so I can read or study scores, or write tons of e-mails to friends that have nothing to do with music. Then once I'm off the plane, there is practicing and concerts or rehearsals, but I still give myself plenty of time to relax, see movies, go to museums...San Francisco is two concerts because I have two different concertos to warm-up before our tour to Asia

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And how do you decide what piece you are playing at each venue?

It's a discussion between the orchestras and me for each date. There are certain pieces I want to bring into my repertoire and I see if the orchestras can take these. The more I play, though, the more careful I have to be about not repeating what I've played there before. Los Angeles is one concert as part of the IPO tour.

You've performed the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto with Sir Neville Mariner and Kurt Masur, and now with Zubin Mehta. He' a little more flamboyant in his style, does the conductor you play with affect your interpretation/performance of the piece?

They always do, for every single artist. Music is a dialogue and no two conductors speak exactly the same.

How does a piece you perform so many times in front of an audience like a Rachmaninoff or a Chopin stay interesting to you?

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Great music has layers of things to discover. I try to do so every night.

Speaking of Mehta, you're joining him and the Israel Philharmonic, an orchestra you're quite familiar with. How did this relationship come about, and how did you get brought in to this tour?

Mr. Mehta had asked for me a few times in the past that didn't work out. But about a year ago, I played with the IPO for the first time, and I guess it went really well because my manager called to tell me they wanted me back as soon as possible, and with Mr. Mehta. It's a dream come true!

After having this piece in your repertoire for quite a while now, did you learn any insights regarding the piece in your travels or research? Have you looked to any recordings or performers for inspiration?

I have many pieces in my repertoire that I'm playing, either in recital or concerto, that I've played for many years and some I played when I was very young, but haven't touched since. Time to let a piece digest - away from the piano - always produces new insights.

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As an Asian musician, how often does your ethnicity get brought up in interviews? What label(s) if at all, would you prefer?

It does come up often and it's stupid. I'm a pianist who happens to be Chinese.DG (Deutsche Grammophonis my label and I love it.

And since the 2011 Hollywood Bowl non-incident, do you get a question regarding a dress or that dress all the time?

It comes up. But I have to ask: who cares?! A few designers/people from the fashion world have approached me about it too.

What will you wear for the performance?

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This is the least of my concerns, frankly.

When you visit Los Angeles, is there anything that you plan on checking out? Is there anything you do or eat every time you visit? Anything planned for Halloween?

I won't have a lot of time for visiting places this time. I eat everything, especially if there is chocolate in it. Halloween? Maybe I'll play Sorcerer's Apprentice as an encore.