The dazzling Chinese pianist joins luminaries like Bernstein and Argerich in the prestigious award’s 56th year.

Pianist Yuja Wang has been named Musical America’s 2017 Artist of the Year. The Chinese virtuoso joins a distinguished list of previous winners, including Leonard Bernstein – the winner of the first award in 1961 – Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Horowitz, Beverly Sills, George Balanchine, Arthur Rubinstein, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Marilyn Horne, Andre Previn, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald and Martha Argerich. Last year’s Artist of the Year was the Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and incoming music director of the Metropolitan Opera. In announcing their decision, Musical America described Wang as “dazzling audiences and critics alike with her impeccable technique and unshakable command at the keyboard”.

Wang studied at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, and Mount Royal University in Canada. She made her Carnegie Hall recital debut in 2011, just three years after graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music. Her earliest international engagement was in Perth as an eight-year-old. Wang counts as her mentors Leon Fleisher, the American pianist and conductor and a previous Musical America award recipient, and Gary Graffman.

Stepping in at the last minute for Martha Argerich in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a 20-year-old Wang was thrust into the spotlight. The accolades have been rolling in ever since, with critics and audiences alike delighting in her virtuosity, bold approach, and memorable stage presence. Of her recital last year, Limelight wrote that “eager Sydneysiders packed City Recital Hall to see if the goods matched up to the hype. And on this showing, they certainly did. Yuja Wang possesses the ‘wow’ factor in spades – and then some,” going on to praise her “playing of such rare delicacy” and “her combination of strength, passion and instinct”.

In selecting Wang as their Artist of the Year, Musical America said “her career soars above that of any pianist before the public today. She represents a new breed – the complete, thoroughly modern package”.

The additional 2017 award winners were also announced:

Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble of the Year
Finnish maestro Susanna Mälkki, Conductor of the Year

American Andrew Norman, Composer of the Year
American Bass-baritone Eric Owens, Vocalist of the Year

The 56th Annual Musical America Awards will be presented at Carnegie Hall in December 2016.