Move over, Lang Lang. For that matter, step aside, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon": Classical music has a new Chinese pianist with action hero-like moves: Yuja Wang.
Her Heinz Hall debut yesterday was astounding. I had to stare to make sure the cascading runs, agile jumps and vital weight in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 that I was hearing were emanating from this slender 21-year-old.
Wang was born in Beijing and studied at the Central Conservatory there and later the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
But her performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was not of the unpolished, raw and potential type. It was refined, focused and fully kinetic.
It seemed as if she moved preternaturally quickly between notes, so that she arrived with more time than most pianists to eloquently prepared key moments and then drove them home with fantastic clarity.
Her quickness was married to musicality from the onset. Unlike countryman Lang Lang, she eschewed flamboyancy and sought to fan the fire already burning in the score.
Case in point is the gargantuan cadenza Prokofiev placed in a peculiar place in the first movement -- that of serving as the development of the concerto's themes rather than as an add-on at the end.
There's crucial work to be done in this cadenza; it is not just there to dazzle the audience. Wang's treatment obliged. It was breathtaking in its virtuosity, yet satisfying because she drew out a full range of color even at lightning speeds. Wang was the orchestra for a few glorious minutes.
Not that the PSO was eclipsed. Under, and at times in spite of, debuting conductor Hannu Lintu, the orchestra set the table and then provided high-level conversation with Wang. The brass were particularly crisp.
Lintu deserves that substituting head start from the critical hunt. He replaced an ailing Charles Dutoit without changing any of the programming. The Finnish conductor's day was largely competent, but at times he would offer an ambiguous beat, and the PSO would more or less play through him.
However, the twist was that this was done with guest concertmaster Jeff Thayer (leader in the San Diego Symphony, who also showcased some delicate solos) in place of Andres Cardenes.
That meant that performances of Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks" and Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun" (with vibrant soloing by flutist Damian Bursill-Hall) and "La Mer" were alternately luminous and clamorous, but never soul-stirring.
That was supplied by the rising star, Yuja Wang.
The program repeats at 8 tonight and tomorrow.