We are delighted to partner with our friends at Austin Chamber Music Center to present the brilliant artists of the Beijing Guitar Duo, Meng Su and Yameng Wang, at UT-Austin’s Bates Recital Hall on Saturday, July 20th. We recently had the chance to speak with Meng Su about the origin of the duo, her perspective on performing, and what she loves about the guitar and music in general.

The lives of Meng Su and Yameng Wang existed for 15 years on two parallel – but separate – paths, finally intertwining in the celebrated Beijing Guitar Duo.

Meng Su

Meng and Yameng both began playing guitar in the city of Qingdao, China, at the age of 5. The novelty of guitar appealed to Meng when her mother offered lessons in either that or violin: most people her age were playing violin or piano. Yameng began guitar because her father was an amateur guitarist, giving her little choice in the matter.

Yameng Wang

Guitar lessons easily flowed into a passion, and they both pursued music careers very young.

At age 9, Meng Su’s mother took her to Beijing to study with the renowned teacher Chen Zhi. Being surrounded by so many talented musicians increased her competitive nature, and three years later, she was accepted into the prestigious Central Conservatory of Beijing.

Yameng surpassed contenders three times her age by achieving the winning title of the Tokyo International Guitar Competition at age 12, becoming the youngest champion in its history. After winning a string of international competitions in Italy, France, and Spain before turning 15, Classical Guitar Magazine noted that Yameng already played like a professional.

Yameng Wang, 12 years old, performing Cataluna by Albeniz

She was several years older than Meng, who remembers idolizing Yameng from afar when they studied with the same teacher, Chen Zhi, at the Central Conservatory. (Meng Su, for her part, claimed the first prize title in the Tokyo International Competition as well, adding to her impressive list of international accolades.)

Although they always studied with the same teachers, it wasn’t until they were both studying at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore – Yameng pursuing a graduate degree and Meng working on her Bachelor’s – that their professor, Manuel Barrueco, introduced the idea of playing as a duo.

Meng Su told us, “Our musical ideas were similar when we first started. I think it was just meant to be … It’s fun to play and travel with her because we’re very close friends. What we hear a lot from our audience is that we sound like one person.”

This uncanny ability to meld sound together as though playing one instrument is partially responsible for the international fame of the Beijing Guitar Duo.


In 2015, Classical Guitar Magazine‘s Guy Traviss said after their performance in Serbia, “I thought of the Beijing Guitar Duo as truly representing one voice, one sound, and ultimately, the concept of oneness.”

The Duo made their international debut on the stage of Carnegie Hall in 2009. The same year, they released an album later nominated for a Latin Grammy for its title work, Maracaípe, dedicated to them by the legendary Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad. They’ve performed in four continents and in distinguished halls around the world.

Meng Su remembers approaching music competitively from a young age.

“When I was growing up, I always wanted to show ‘I can play this fast. How much could I impress you?’”

Now, however, her approach is more subtle, more sophisticated.

“I’ve been playing guitar for about 25 years. I’m not really into speed now; I’ve been into more tone. You keep experiencing life, love, anger … Now it’s the feeling that I’m after. ‘How can I move people, how I can express my feelings, how I can bring out the composer’s intentions?’ The most important [part] for me is to sing every note and express my feelings to move the audience. If they can be touched by any part of the music, then I’m happy. ”

Meng and Yameng have a special fondness for teaching, often conducting masterclasses in conservatories and visiting schools wherever they perform. Meng has some advice to impart upon students:

“Try to play and practice slowly. Playing really fast is not clean, and the rhythm is not accurate. We always want to play the right tempos slowly, and then you can get faster and faster and have a really impressive control of music.”

When asked about performance anxiety, Meng offered this recommendation:

“I do visualization: going through the music in your head, imagining where your left hand fingers would be on the fingerboard and which fingers to pluck on your right hand. You can do this whenever possible, like in the airport, or in the bank; any time. For flexible fingers, I developed this warm-up routine before I go on stage. I used to not warm up, I would just go cold. As a kid I thought that was ok for me, it was like excitement right away. But, I think with a little warm-up it’s better.”

Meng Su told us she appreciates all types of music, but she holds a certain regard for Baroque in particular.

“Every day I have to play a little bit of Baroque just to get that deep interpretation of feeling. Latin and Romantic music are easier to express, but Baroque – there’s more rules to it. It’s more of a subtle, deep, but still very expressive feeling.”

She finds Impressionist music especially gratifying.

“Impressionist music works really well on guitar – two guitars even better – because we have so many different colors, tones; the ringing strings really bring out impressionistic feelings. I like Debussy. The Duo just recorded some of his music, and we’re going to release a new recording next year with French Repertoire.”

She and Yameng are excited about their return to Austin.

“It’s really nice to be back in Austin. The guitar community is so welcoming, and we admire the guitar education you’ve been doing – it’s very inspiring. It’s great to see so many young people who are not exposed to music normally playing the guitar; the guitar can change them and change their lives. It’s really amazing: you can speak different languages, but you play the same music, and I think it’s a great way to connect people.”