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August 12, 2021

Unmasking the Arts Episode 3: Wu Han, pianist

UMS
By UMS

Our partners at Princeton University Concerts have created a new six-part series, Unmasking the Arts, with host Helga Davis and special guests in conversation about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the height of the pandemic, pianist Wu Han joined The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where she serves as co-artistic director, for a surreal concert tour in Taiwan under strict quarantine conditions. A few months later, she no longer felt safe walking down the street in NYC after the recent wave of anti-Asian violence. Recorded during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she sits with host Helga Davis as part of Unmasking the Arts in a personal discussion about Wu Han’s relationship to music throughout this eventful year as together they look to the future.

“As artists, even in good times, we should always have a certain sense of emergency because our job is to push limits…” —Wu Han, piano

Shared with kind permission of Princeton University Concerts.

Princeton University Concerts

Wu Han – Unmasking the Arts: Playlist

During the conversation, pianist Wu Han noted that for her, “Schubert is the most perfect pandemic listening.” For Princeton University Concerts’ Collective Listening Project, Wu Han shared beloved tracks that have served as a bedrock throughout her long and celebrated career as the Co-Artistic Director of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Listen on Spotify.

Schubert – String Quintet in C Major, D. 956, Op. 163
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello, and the Emerson String Quartet

The Schubert cello quintet is one of the greatest “desert island” pieces for any musician. Artistically, this recording is the highest achievement of this piece. And not to mention, I was at the recording session—witnessing this miracle happen in front of me.

Horowitz in Moscow
Vladimir Horowitz, piano

I love Vladimir Horowitz. He is the greatest pianist in the world. On this occasion when he returned to Moscow, there was so much emotion in his piano playing. This particular recording is just astonishing.

Brahms – Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87
Isaac Stern, violin, Eugene Istomin, piano, and Leonard Rose, cello

I worked right next to Mr. Stern for many years at his Chamber Music Encounters program. The integrity of this playing has completely set the industry standard for any piano trio.

Schubert – Winterreise, D. 911, Op. 89
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone

Any lieder recordings by Fischer-Dieskau are worth gold. Every time I listen to this great singer perform Winterreise, Dichterliebe, or any of the song cycles, I will always be brought to tears.

About the Artists

Helga Davis

Helga Davis first appeared on UMS stages in our 2012 presentation of Philip Glass’s opera, Einstein on the Beach. We look forward to welcoming her back in the 2021/22 season as a featured performer in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Davis is a vocalist and performance artist with feet planted on the most prestigious international stages and with firm roots in the realities and concerns of her local community whose work draws out insights that illuminate how artistic leaps for an individual can offer connection among audiences.

Listen to the new season of her podcast series, Helga: The Armory Conversations, co-produced by WNYC Studios and Park Avenue Armory.

Wu Han Wu Han

Named Musical America’s Musician of the Year, pianist Wu Han ranks among the most esteemed and influential classical musicians in the world today. Leading an unusually multifaceted artistic career, she has risen to international prominence as a concert performer, artistic director, recording artist, educator, and cultural entrepreneur. Wu Han appears annually at the world’s most prestigious concert series and venues, as both soloist and chamber musician.

Together with David Finckel, Wu Han serves as Co-Artistic Director of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS). Under her artistic leadership, CMS recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as the leading global chamber music institution She is the founding Co-Artistic Directors of Music@Menlo, the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier summer chamber music festival and institute. The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts appointed Wu Han to serve as artistic advisor for its Chamber Music at The Barns series. In the Far East, Wu Han serves as founding Co-Artistic Director of Chamber Music Today, a festival in Seoul, South Korea.

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