Wu Han, piano

Wu Han

Taiwanese-born American pianist Wu Han first came to prominence as part of a duet with her husband, cellist David Finckel, but went on to establish a flourishing solo career. The daughter of a policeman, Wu Han was born around 1958 in Taipei. She started music lessons at age nine and within a few years racked up most of Taiwan's major music prizes. After studies at Soochow University in Taipei, Wu Han came to the U.S. in 1981. Despite the fact that she spoke little English at the time, she won admission to the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT. The following year she won a student competition whose prize was a chance to play Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44, with the school's chamber-ensemble-in-residence, the Emerson String Quartet.  Wu Han and Emerson cellist David Finckel hit it off immediately (not romantically, but musically). They began to perform cello-and-piano repertory, but they knew something else was happening when, from the beginning, people asked whether they were married. As of 1985 they could say yes. The couple had one daughter, Lilian, who has shown talent as a musician and as a choreographer.

Intent on distinguishing her own career from that of her older and better-known husband, Wu Han spent two summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, one of the festivals in the New England region that combines teaching and outdoor concert events. Among her teachers at Marlboro was Rudolf Serkin. After that she joined the Musicians from Marlboro package tour. At her husband's urging she began to rent out small New Jersey venues, such as a space at the Madison Public Library, and to present solo concerts. Her career grew from those modest beginnings to recitals on major stages such as Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, and venues in other American cities. She toured Europe, returned to her native Taiwan, and appeared at the Aspen Music Festival and other summer events in the American West. She has collaborated with chamber groups other than her husband's, including the Borromeo and St. Lawrence string quartets. She and Finckel formed the Internet-based label ArtistLed.com in 1997, far in advance of almost any other exploitation of the Internet by classical musicians. She released her first solo recording, Russian Recital, for the label in 2007; it included music by Scriabin, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky.  Wu Han's activities with Finckel have encompassed a range of activities sufficiently broad that the two have been dubbed the power couple of American chamber music. They have achieved notable critical success in Britain as well as the U.S. In addition to extensive concertizing, they have jointly held directorial positions at Summerfest La Jolla and Music@Menlo in California, and at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York starting in 2004. Wu Han has taught at Aspen, the Jerusalem Music Center, and New York's 92nd St. Y, among several other institutions.