Russia and the year of revolution in 1917 runs like a theme through this concert, reflecting how an old world is replaced by a new. Rachmaninov had left the Soviet Union after the revolution and lived in Europe and America, where he premièred his Fourth Piano Concerto in 1926. It could be seen as a beautiful antique with its own history, a reminiscence from bygone days that in a certain light revealed its true age. Especially when set alongside a radical and innovative work such as Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk from 1934 – evolution, boldness, progress!
It was as much about aesthetics as it was about a world view with different ideals and values. Strangely enough, Rachmaninov ended up in commercial Hollywood, while Shostakovich remained faithful to the Soviet State and the revolution. His Twelfth Symphony from 1961, subtitled “The year of 1917” was dedicated to the memory of Lenin, an elegant and profound monument to a blood-drenched era.
With her strong stage presence and natural sense of music from different eras, Yuja Wang has struck a chord with a young audience who are captivated by her charisma. Yuja Wang’s passion for fashion is also something young people can identify with, she is one of five women chosen by Giorgio Armani’s “Sì”project where women say “yes” to life and a career. In an interview for the project, she says that her first piano teacher thought her hands were too small, that she had “spaghetti fingers” and would never be a professional pianist, prompting six-year-old Yuja Wang to focus her efforts even more intently. And it paid off.