Yuja Wang powers through traumatic experience to give rousing recital

24 February 2020
By Ellie Palmer
The pianist arrived at Vancouver Airport, Canada, for a recital only to be detained by police

Header image: © Lüksemburg Filarmoni Orkestrası & Yuja Wang at a previous recital

Chinese pianist Yuja Wang was subject to 'intense questioning' for over an hour upon arrival in Canada over the weekend, causing her to almost miss her recital that evening at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

The experience left her 'extremely shaken', she explained in a Facebook post after her performance. The former Pianist cover star felt she had no other option but to perform in sunglasses in order to cover her 'visibly red and swollen' eyes.

Yuja appears on the cover of Issue 105 of Pianist, which you can now download for £2.99 (usually £6.99).


Here is her statement in full:

"It is difficult for me to share this with all of you, but given the circumstances, and harmful speculation and criticism being shared online and elsewhere, I feel it important that the following is made public.

On arrival at Vancouver International Airport on Friday, I was detained for over an hour and subjected to intense questioning which I found humiliating and deeply upsetting. I was then released, giving me very little time to travel to the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. I was left extremely shaken by this experience.

When I was dropped off at the venue for my recital that evening, my eyes were still visibly red and swollen from crying. I was in shock. Although I was traumatized by what happened, I was determined not to cancel the recital, but to go ahead with the performance and not to let the audience down, which included my dear teacher Gary Graffman. I decided that wearing sunglasses was the only way to prevent my distress from being seen, since I wasn’t yet prepared to make a statement about what happened.

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My main concern in that moment was to give the best performance I possibly could, and not to allow the audience to be distracted by my swollen eyes or visibly shaken demeanor. It would never be my intention to snub or disengage with an audience. Everything I do on stage is about connecting with people. My audiences and fans sustain and nourish me as an artist.

I am deeply grateful to Leila Getz and her team in Vancouver, and to the audience there with me in the hall for their support throughout the day and evening.

My recital tour will continue, and I look forward to bringing my program to the audience in San Francisco tonight, and on to New York.

Thank you to everyone who has sent or shared words of support during this difficult time. I know that I am unfortunately not the only person to have had this kind of traumatic experience, which has shaken me to my core. My heart goes out to anyone else who has, and my hope is that by sharing what happened to me, there can be a much needed conversation and change in protocol to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else."


Always the professional

Nevertheless, Yuja still gave a stunning recital in Vancouver. Her refusal to cancel the show despite what had just happened to her highlights her incredible professionalism.

Her repertoire for the night included Bach's Toccata in C minor BWV 911, Brahms's Intermezzo in A minor Op 116 No 2, Galuppi's Andante from Sonata in C major, and a number of Chopin Mazurkas including Op 67 No 4, Op 30 No 4 and Op 33 No 4.

We salute you, Yuja!

Enjoy some clips taken from her recital below...