Her movements, as fluid and graceful as the childhood dancer she once was, mark her stage presence. Clearly, pianist Di Wu looks as if she is physically relaying songs as much as playing them.
Her arms seem to float above the keyboard. Her body leans far in over her instrument, then back, as if the notes possess her. Her facial expression runs from pained to passionate, depending upon the notes.
Let’s just say she gives the term moving music a whole new meaning.
“It’s an unconscious thing, really,” said the 32-year-old Wu, speaking by phone from a coffee shop in New York City, where she lives. “And maybe it represents a combination linked to my parents (an opera singer dad and dancer mom).
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“But it’s not something I actually think about.”
Wu returns for her fifth appearance with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Clarence E. Robbins Auditorium, 230 S. Marr Road. She has long been a favorite of Philharmonic music director David Bowden, who learned of her in 2005 and has called her “the next Arthur Rubenstein,” considered one of the greatest classical pianists of the 20th century before his death at age 95 in 1982.
Wu and Bowden also have worked together via his leadership of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra and his former leadership of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra.
The woman who has played prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center — both in New York — has earned her share of accolades.
American Record Guide noted her dramatic kinship with the material she performs when a reviewer noted that “she has fierce concentration and is intent on penetrating into the music’s innermost spiritual core.”
Wu called Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major” “a mesmerizing, beautiful piece” that she will present with the Philharmonic. And she sees George Gershwin’s classic “Rhapsody in Blue” on the program as “a piece with a wonderful rhythm that you just can’t deny — and I’ve always loved that kind of jazz.”
The globetrotting musician who joined an arena tour with classical crossover singer Sarah Brightman last year loved performing in such locales as Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara south of the border, and also in Japan.
“Actually, sometimes when I stay at home, it’s not the best thing,” Wu said with a laugh, acknowledging that she is something of a hyper, Type A personality. “Those days are not always the most productive.
“I don’t do well sitting down.”
Well, except for concerts.
She hardly seems to mind her burgeoning solo career’s demanding travel that brought her to three different countries — Poland, Russia and Italy — in three consecutive days just before Christmas. So, her aversion to sitting still seems to exquisitely fit her professional lifestyle.
While she climbs the ranks of classical music stardom, she has dropped downtime activities such as climbing walls that she tried a few times just before one of her Columbus performances about years ago.
She laughed about her numerous Facebook and Twitter posts featuring her uber-healthy meals, from Berkshire pork belly to grilled salmon to honey-marinated chicken.
“I do watch what I eat in terms of overall healthiness,” she said, calling cooking a favorite passion and a fascinating journey of discovery. “On the road, if you’re not careful, you tend to eat too much protein and not enough vegetables.”
She looks forward to finding a comfortable connection again with Bowden.
“I think the two of us understand each other very well,” she said. “Together, we have very good instincts, and at live performances, a lot of the music can be a matter of instincts. It’s no longer mechanical.
“And I love that we have such a seamless relationship.”
Wu made her professional debut at the age of 14 with the Beijing Philharmonic. But she swears she never has pinpointed exactly where she ideally wants her musical life to go.
“As much as you might want to say you have a clear idea of where you’re going, life often takes you on a different journey,” she said. “And so you really never know exactly where you’re eventually going to go.
“For me, really, life is about progression and exploration.”
And if that means allowing the music to move her as well as the audience, so be it.
Who: Pianist Di Wu performing George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4.
Where: Clarence E. Robbins Auditorium, 230 S. Marr Road.
Tickets: Available at 812-376-2638 or thecip.org.