Yuja Wang and Klaus Mäkelä with Ravel

Yuja Wang will perform both of Ravel’s piano concertos in one evening with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Klaus Mäkelä conducting. A unique challenge. “I know both concerts so well already, but I’m sure new ideas will appear too”, Wang says in an interview with Preludium.
Yuja Wang with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, under the baton of Klaus Mäkelä (image: Eduardus Lee)
Yuja Wang with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, under the baton of Klaus Mäkelä (image: Eduardus Lee)

Klaus Mäkelä

While the Chinese pianist performs the solo parts, the orchestra’s artistic partner Klaus Mäkelä is wielding the baton. How does she like collaborating with him? “It’s a great pleasure. He brings out the best in the musicians, he has that quality. Klaus radiates confidence and respect and gives the players their space. That is all about humanity, you all have the same goal, no one is better than anyone else. As a musician you should also feel free to speak up. I have learned that he subscribes to the credo “help, don’t interfere.”

Poker face

Ravel wrote his Piano Concerto in G and his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in the same time period; they are, as it were, two sides of the same coin. “They are completely different,” Klaus Mäkelä says, “but the way I see it they combine to form one work.”

Yuja Wang says Ravel’s Piano Concertos are classical and clear. In her view, the composer always maintains a reserved demeanour, he tries to not let too much emotion shine through. “Ravel puts on his poker face, and that makes his music powerful and very exciting. The Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is very demanding physically, but I don’t mind at all. It’s an absolutely beautiful concert, by the way. It feels like it carries the whole weight of music history in it. And it is so quintessentially Ravel, and darker and fuller than the Piano Concerto in G.”

“Believe me, everything is right about this piece.”

“Rising above the orchestra is tricky, I am a little worried about that. Most of the process will happen during rehearsals, that’s when we’ll discover which direction we want to take. I need to be clear about what colour I want to hear in the music. Ravel used the left hand so intelligently. I don’t know of a more pianistic concert than this. […] Believe me, everything is right about this piece.”


“Ravel’s other Concerto, which I have played since I was very young, is much more Gershwinesque, lighter, brighter, more exotic. I adore the second part, with the flute, a sublime moment. First I play solo for ten minutes, but the magic becomes complete when the orchestra joins in.”

Read the complete interview with Yuja Wang by Frederike Berntsen in Preludium.