Classical IPR in conversation with Wu Han

Mar 12, 2019

Pianist Wu Han
Credit Christian Steiner

Wu Han wears many hats. She is a pianist, co-artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, co-artistic director of Music@Menlo and co-founder of the record label ArtistLed.

Han spoke with Classical IPR by phone about the upcoming Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performance at Interlochen Center for the Arts. She also discussed the Bowers Program, a residency program for up-and-coming classical musicians.

Listen to the entire interview below. 

Wu Han and colleagues from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will perform on Wednesday, March 13 at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Then they will travel to the St. Cecilia Center in Grand Rapids for a performance on Thursday, March 14. 

An edited version of the interivew appears below.

On the Russian Masters program they’re performing

It's a program based around the Russian masters such as Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. The most important one in this program is [Sergei] Taneyev, who taught Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Scriabin. He’s a great Russian pianist and composer, and very few people know him in the United States. This particular quintet by Taneyev is extremely difficult and extremely powerful. It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever tackled. We’ve set the quintet as the closing piece [of the recital], and the first half will be music of the great composers that had a really deep relationship with [Taneyev].

On looking forward to the cold weather in Northern Michigan

I find the cold weather makes you want to go indoors and have cultural activities. You know, like in Finland and Northern Germany and Russia have great, great, great artists and great concert series. So the cold is actually a very good place to flourish.

On the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Bowers Program

The Bowers Program is our grooming program. We select the hottest, the best, the most enthusiastic, and the most passionate young musicians to join the roster. The program itself is a three-year residency, during which we take them around the world touring, do radio interviews, introduce them to the world, and help them to launch a career. It has the most incredible track record when they graduate after three years, if they did really well, they stay on the roster. What makes this program interesting is that multiple generations are kind of passing down torches and influencing each other. The young ones bring tremendous amounts of energy on stage, and the older ones bring a lot of experience - and hopefully some wisdom - to the interpretations.

On the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s touring program

We actually play more concerts on the road than we play in New York. . . . We have about 130 to 160 musicians on our stage [every season]. In the US, we have two festivals in the spring and then in Shaker Village in Kentucky. It's a very busy pace, but I can tell you the musicians are so happy because there’s nothing better than to walk on stage and play music for the audience. That's what we're trained for and that's what we all dream about. So right now, the Chamber Music Society is the place. It's really hot and jumping. I can really have the best musicians join me on stage both at home and also on tour.

On organizing and planning all of those tours

Usually the personnel and the logistical decisions are coming from David [Finckel] and me - from the artistic directors. We look at each location and each concert program. We know everybody's temperament and what they can do best, and we know who gets along well. So we usually can put together a group with great chemistry and program pieces that they are passionate about. That kind of planning usually goes about two years ahead of schedule. So right now we are planning a touring program for the 2020-21 season.