Pianist Wuu connects with deep feelings in Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody'

 Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano soloist for the Symphony Parnassus June 11 concert, loves the deep feelings evoked by Rachmaninoff, the great Russian Romantic composer who also happens to be his favorite.

“I feel like I can connect with the strong emotions. I adore his heart-wrenching harmonies,” Elliot says.

Elliot, 17, lives in Fremont, Calif., and attends Valley Christian High School in San Jose. He studies piano with Yoshikazu Nagai at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College Division, and when not practicing, he likes to play with gadgets and technology, and also loves to swim and play basketball. He has been studying piano since age 6.

His love of music began early: His parents told him that as a baby, he frequently slept next to the piano bench while his sister Rebecca practiced; she is now preparing to graduate with a piano degree from the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

And as for Elliot, all those naps next to the piano bench, plus many years of practice have paid off.   

 Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano

He is excited to play Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the upcoming concert. “I am ecstatic to perform with Symphony Parnassus,” he said. “I hope I will be able to share my love of music with the audience, and to inspire them too!”

“I really like Rachmaninoff's creativity throughout this piece,” Elliot says. “He uses numerous ways to vary the Paganini motive to compose unique textures and expressions in each variation.”

The Rhapsody—one of Rachmaninoff’s most popular pieces—is actually a set of 24 variations on the 24th and last of composer Paganini's Caprices for solo violin. In 2015, Elliot performed it to win the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. That achievement is one of many national and international prizes he has won in his young career, including:  

  • 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist Winner
  • 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts candidate
  • 2014 Lang Lang International Music Foundation Young Scholar (2014-2016)
  • 2016-2021 Music Teachers Association of California Young Artist Guild, the highest honor bestowed to California music students
  • Two-time first prize winner of the Pacific Musical Society Competition, whose past winners include violinist Yehudi Menuhin and pianist Leon Fleisher