by Sally Zarafonetis
Wu Han, dynamic pianist and co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is a whirlwind in action. Dressed in flowing, colorful gowns, she plays piano on stage with a powerful force, interweaving her intricate musical finesse with a team composed of the finest chamber musicians in the world.
Born in Taiwan, Wu Han began studying piano at an early age and quickly rose to become one of the most influential figures in classical music. Leading a multifaceted career, she has ascended to international prominence as a concert performer, recording artist, educator, arts administrator and cultural entrepreneur. Currently, she serves as the co-Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Today in Korea and Music@Menlo in California along with her husband and cellist David Finckel.
On January 18, Wu Han will be performing in Grand Rapids along with fellow musicians of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performing the works of Brahms and Dvořák. This will be Wu Han’s seventh performance at St. Cecilia Music Center Royce Auditorium, which she calls “an amazing place to play.”
“Brahms wrote the piano for four hands, which is one of the amazing pieces that we’ll be playing during our January concert at St. Cecilia Music Center,” Wu Han said.
“It’s like watching a group of people make magic happen. There is no conductor. We have to watch each other like hawks in order to get the precision.” –Wu Han
Watching her perform with the other artists, her fingers fly over the piano keys like an eagle swooping and soaring in the sky. She radiates elegance and grace as she glances at the notes and sways with a keen focus on her fellow chamber musicians. Through pointed nods and expressive glances, they stay in precise connection with each other throughout each performance.
“It’s like watching a group of people make magic happen,” Wu Han described. “There is no conductor. We have to watch each other like hawks in order to get the precision.”
Wu Han’s husband introduced her to St. Cecilia Music Center in 2010 when the couple was invited to perform as a duo; she was enthralled with the superb acoustic quality, beauty and intimacy of the auditorium. When the couple was invited back to perform during the 2010-2011 season, they began discussions with St. Cecilia Executive Director Cathy Holbrook about what they could do to help her expose more people in West Michigan to the beauty of chamber music—and so became the St. Cecilia Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Series.
Wu Han and Finckel have relished the opportunity to regularly perform with their Chamber Music Society colleagues in what they consider one of the most exquisite musical spaces in the world —The Royce Auditorium, which Finckel termed as “acoustically superior and ranks among the top 10 in the world. ”
“Grand Rapids is the hidden jewel of Michigan,” Wu Han expressed. “The audience enthusiasm is amazing. St. Cecilia’s concert hall is amazing; part of the beauty of it is that, as a performer, you can sense the audience very well.”
Tickets can be purchased by calling St. Cecilia Music Center at 616-459-2224 or by visiting the box office at 24 Ransom Ave. NE. Tickets can also be purchased online at scmc-online.org. Tickets to a pre-concert wine and hors d’oeuvres event will be available for purchase to all ticket holders. There will also be a pre-concert talk with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center artists in the Royce Auditorium to discuss the music selection for the evening and any other questions that pertain to the artists themselves. Following the concert will be a party open to all ticket-holders, giving the audience an opportunity to meet the musicians and obtain signed CDs of their releases.
What: The Works of Brahms and Dvorák featuring Wu Han
Where: St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave NE, 49503
When: Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $38 and $43
• Pre-concert wine and hors d’oeuvre event tickets available for $15 to all ticket holders.
• Post-concert gathering with the artists is available for free to all ticket holders.