Wednesday, 8 February 2012

There may be something more depressing in the modern musical world ...

..., but if so, I have forgotten it, and feel no need to be reminded:

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Something more depressing? Probably his last concert at the Royal Festival Hall.. I felt that I had to hear him live at least once to qualify my negative comments - it was worse than I imagined. Of course, it didn't help that he was playing the same Schubert sonata that Pollini had played in the same hall weeks earlier. Even still, what a disgrace!

Andrew Patner said...

What was the name of the pen company he's endorsing again?

Anonymous said...

He's not for everyone - he's not my favourite pianist either, and that was a pretty 'loose' rendition of the Etude by anyone's standards - but I wish you wouldn't be such a colossal snob about him. Try to remember that virtuosity and joy in music making, as well as sheer physical prowess and athleticism, are just as much a part of the musical spectrum as is your excellent article on the Mozart-da Ponte operas below; furthermore I know from long experience that a young student is far more likely to have his early pianistic imagination engaged and sustained by the charisma of a Lang Lang than by many a worthier artist. If he is not for yu, leave him alone (as I do), don't persecute him.

Anonymous said...

(As Anonymous in first post) - I do agree with Anonymous in third post - I don't mean to "persecute" Lang Lang at all. If anything, it's more a persecution of audiences, but I can see how even that comment can be seen as "snobbish". Ultimately, I just find very sad the fact that an enormous range of pianists (from Anderszewski to Paul Lewis, nevermind Uchida and Kovacevich) are so much lesser known and celebrated than Lang Lang. I find it very sad that marketing dollars has a bigger influence than (I admit what I perceive as) musical quality. Lang Lang brings more people to the classical genre, which is a good thing. He inspires more people to play instruments, which is also good. But I guess I'm just an optimist, looking forward to the day that just the music alone matters most.

Anonymous said...

Criticize his formal musical performances by all means. But why did you single out an ad. in which he thanks his sponsors for making a musical festival possible? I have enjoyed your excellent articles, and still think 98% of what you have written worth rereading. But this? Oh dear Boulezian, it is not Lang Lang,but you, who are depressing me!

Mark Berry said...

Andrew: I'm afraid I have forgotten. We may both have to listen again to remind ourselves...

To the anonymous three (I think): Like Anonymous 1, I had no intention to persecute, and do not remotely think that I was, even allowing for a little linguistic inflation. Again like Anon.1, I feel at least as sickened by general audience response - anyone who has been to a concert of his will know what I mean - as anything else. Should it be snobbish to exercise some degree of discrimination, then so be it. I find it difficult to imagine that anyone uninfluenced by advertising hype etc., would find the Chopin rendition anything other than poor at best. Were I acting in my capacity as university examiner, I should struggle to award it a 2:2.

But far more disturbing, at least for me, is the product endorsement. Why would anyone so wealthy feel the need to abase himself in such a fashion? Greed seems to be the only plausible answer: not just his, of course, or perhaps even primarily, but that of the parasitic management agencies, advertisers, etc. Treating music as a 'luxury product' seems to me obscene. It is when a great orchestra such as the Vienna Philharmonic does so (associating itself with Rolex, for goodness sake!) There are a good few culprits. But at least the VPO, though cheapened, remains the VPO. Like Anon. 1, I think those alleged new audiences would - and should - gain far greater sustenance from pianists who are more than a second-rate Liberace act - without the jokes. That is not to say that one need be humourless, or closed-minded, but it does not follow that therefore anything goes.

I am sceptical that this sort of thing brings people to anything other than this sort of thing: do those screaming at Lang Lang - and not for the right reasons - really then graduate to Maurizio Pollini playing Stockhausen (or indeed Chopin)? It seems rather more likely, though I should be delighted to be proved wrong, that the phenomenon resembles that of the Three Tenors, or worse still, 'opera singer' Katherine Jenkins. There must be hundreds, indeed thousands, of deserving, hard-working young pianists, though I don't necessarily understand the fixation with youth. What does it matter if Pollini is 70, except for the wealth of experience that brings to his performances?

And yes, it matters, if Schubert is given the treatment to which Anon.1 refers. It mattered when I heard Lang Lang 'decorate', like a café pianist (!), the opening theme to the slow movement of Brahms's First Piano Concerto. Schubert and Brahms are worth more than that.

Paul Kilbey said...

He's playing to a completely empty concert hall though - maybe everyone's lost interest!

The Wagnerian said...

While I have a little sympathy for "anonymous'" comments - people are lead into classical music in many different ways and even if he clearly is "not for everyone" he certainly has some sort of popular following- Mark's blog is clearly not for those whom one might consider his "fans". Here one assumes is a slightly different audience. Fans such as his often have a real and reverse "snobbery" far more vehement or "real" than displayed here.

I would add a final thought though in that, no matter what ones feelings, one should never make any cheap shots at the poor lads expense.


By the way, am I correct in thinking he is flogging some knocked off biros in that video?

NEW YORK - PARIS - PECKHAM?

CrossEyedPianist said...

Ugh!! It's less his endorsement of a flashy pen, more his reduction of Chopin to a saccharine fancy that upsets me. That, and his ridiculous gurning and "look at me" behaviour at the piano.

His RFH concert last year was appalling (I listened to the live broadcast on Radio 3). While I don't doubt that he is accomplished technically, his renditions of Bach, Chopin and Schubert demonstrated that he does not understand the "soul" of music (ditto his dreadful Proms appearance). For him it is all about showmanship. As a result, his performances lack depth or expression. They are just flashy piano pyrotechnics (to wit, his playing of La Campanella at Proms in the Park), and artifice. As I listened to his ridiculous reading of Schubert's sublime last sonata, I thought "how very dare he!"

Lang Lang is one of many young professional pianists (many of whom are Chinese or oriental) who have enough money to buy a career. It upsets me that these 'rockstar' pianists garner most of the attention when there are many other fine pianists working away, producing fine recordings and thoughtful recitals.