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Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
bennevis #2127444 08/03/13 12:24 PM
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Listen, you can't blame anybody for accepting commissions or premiering new works these days, even if they are bad. Heck, most of them ARE bad, movie soundtracks in search of a movie...

...but we musicians have to eat...

Hey. have any of you heard the crossover album Renee Flemming did, mostly Rock covers? She sounds terrible in it, really embarrassing!!! I bet it's stuff she likes to sing in the shower, or while she's vacuuming.

Last edited by laguna_greg; 08/03/13 12:27 PM. Reason: thought of something
Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
shirlkirsten #2127735 08/03/13 11:14 PM
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I have never visited the "pianist corner" until stumbling across this thread. I have never heard of Lang Lang prior. I watched the documentary. I have no idea what "controversy" could surround someone who is that good at what they do.

I am surprised at how emotionally invested some of you seem about this man. What on earth has he done to you to make some of these statements? I seriously think some of you need to step back, relax, and have some perspective. I trust that not all of you "pianists" are like this, but I certainly won't be browsing the rest of this forum if this is an acceptable attitude.


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Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Daniel Corban #2127782 08/04/13 01:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Daniel Corban
I have never visited the "pianist corner" until stumbling across this thread. I have never heard of Lang Lang prior. I watched the documentary. I have no idea what "controversy" could surround someone who is that good at what they do.

I am surprised at how emotionally invested some of you seem about this man. What on earth has he done to you to make some of these statements? I seriously think some of you need to step back, relax, and have some perspective. I trust that not all of you "pianists" are like this, but I certainly won't be browsing the rest of this forum if this is an acceptable attitude.


Mr. Corban :

Are you not rushing to judgment, perhaps?

If you have never heard of Lang Lang until stumbling across this thread, it seems fairly obvious to me that you have not heard any of his performances. It should conclude, then, that you have no idea what he has done that some should "...make some of these statements."

Why not do the listening that others have evidently done and then, whether you agree with their opinions or not, you might at least understand how Lang Lang's performances have polarized many lovers of classical piano.

Regards,


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Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
laguna_greg #2127831 08/04/13 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Listen, you can't blame anybody for accepting commissions or premiering new works these days, even if they are bad. Heck, most of them ARE bad, movie soundtracks in search of a movie...

...but we musicians have to eat...



Oh, I definitely can blame LL for playing that Nigel Hess thing (and thanks, bennevis, for identifying the piece - not that I'll remember it more than a day or so). I don't think LL is in any danger of immediate starvation, either.

There are plenty of classical musicians who don't perform that sort of junk or do tacky cross-over stuff (not that cross-over has to be awful - but it usually is). Because of that, I don't believe for a minute that there is any urgent necessity for any of the better-known ones to do it.

Sure, if you are barely scraping by and get an offer to do something like that, I can see the temptation, but most of the time, that isn't the situation.


Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
wr #2127850 08/04/13 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by wr

There are plenty of classical musicians who don't perform that sort of junk or do tacky cross-over stuff (not that cross-over has to be awful - but it usually is). Because of that, I don't believe for a minute that there is any urgent necessity for any of the better-known ones to do it.

Sure, if you are barely scraping by and get an offer to do something like that, I can see the temptation, but most of the time, that isn't the situation.



Actually, there are plenty of classical musicians who have to play stuff they hate, or cross-over 'junk', to make ends meet. Many of the musicians in the big London orchestras, for example, work (as in moonlight) in pick-up orchestras playing movie soundtracks, backing for pop/rock stars etc. And many young pianists play contemporary music they can't stand (I won't call those 'junk', because they aren't 'cross-over') here in Britain, simply to get the funding from the Arts Council for playing new music.

While the Nigel Hess concerto isn't exactly profound, at least it's well-crafted and isn't the sort of pretentious twaddle that passes for 'contemporary music' in some quarters.....


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
bennevis #2127860 08/04/13 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by wr

There are plenty of classical musicians who don't perform that sort of junk or do tacky cross-over stuff (not that cross-over has to be awful - but it usually is). Because of that, I don't believe for a minute that there is any urgent necessity for any of the better-known ones to do it.

Sure, if you are barely scraping by and get an offer to do something like that, I can see the temptation, but most of the time, that isn't the situation.



Actually, there are plenty of classical musicians who have to play stuff they hate, or cross-over 'junk', to make ends meet. Many of the musicians in the big London orchestras, for example, work (as in moonlight) in pick-up orchestras playing movie soundtracks, backing for pop/rock stars etc. And many young pianists play contemporary music they can't stand (I won't call those 'junk', because they aren't 'cross-over') here in Britain, simply to get the funding from the Arts Council for playing new music.

While the Nigel Hess concerto isn't exactly profound, at least it's well-crafted and isn't the sort of pretentious twaddle that passes for 'contemporary music' in some quarters.....


We were talking about LL playing junk, remember? Not about poorly-paid orchestral musicians.

And if you prefer the Hess concerto to new music you characterize "pretentious twaddle", hey, it's your ears and brain. Enjoy...

Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
wr #2127891 08/04/13 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by wr

We were talking about LL playing junk, remember? Not about poorly-paid orchestral musicians.

And if you prefer the Hess concerto to new music you characterize "pretentious twaddle", hey, it's your ears and brain. Enjoy...


What's 'junk' to one may be profound to another.

Many people would say that the Yellow River Concerto is 'junk' (there are plenty of scathing 'reviews' by Western critics of it - including in the Penguin Record Guide, about a recording by Ilana Vered), or that the Chinese folk song arrangements that Lang Lang also plays frequently is also 'junk'. I've already said that Lang Lang is always true to himself, and only plays music he believes in, or enjoys. The Hess piece doesn't pretend to be Beethoven, but it doesn't outstay its welcome and is melodically interesting, and Lang Lang obviously had fun playing it. (BTW, have you heard him play it?) Even if it sounds like an accompaniment to a movie or play.

Unlike some pretentious drivel occasionally churned out today (thankfully, far less than in past decades) that has no form, shape, or anything in particular, and which the 'composer' probably wouldn't recognize himself if he heard it. (I'm not just talking about music that has no obvious melody or harmony here - there's plenty of great contemporary music that don't have those). Lang Lang wouldn't play this sort of stuff (even if it was a royal commission grin) - well, he wouldn't need to, but there are many classical musicians here in the UK who have no choice, if they want to survive as musicians rather than, say, waiters.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
shirlkirsten #2128045 08/04/13 05:22 PM
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Not much a fan for many of his performances, there are many better players winning international competitions since Lang has been in the spotlight but like Brittany spears and Justin Bieber they just don't have that "pop star" persona or marketing that Lang has. My guess is Lang would not place if he was even invited to a international competition

On the other hand if he has to put on a "show" complete with fireworks and light shows to bring in new listeners then so be it, whatever it takes to get young people interested in classical music.




Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Miguel Rey #2128094 08/04/13 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
My guess is Lang would not place if he was even invited to a international competition


Sorry, your guess is not correct.


Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1
Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Miguel Rey #2128109 08/04/13 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
My guess is Lang would not place if he was even invited to a international competition


We'll never know that, though I tend to think if he played the same way he has in his most "infamous" performances, my first inclination would be the same as yours.

Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
shirlkirsten #2128113 08/04/13 08:11 PM
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He's already an international competition winner. His problem is that he often doesn't play like one. That's a large part of the problem that I, at least, have with him.

Today I pulled up La Campanella for my daughter to hear, and just for kicks, I clicked on a Lang Lang version. He utterly skipped the middle part and thumped out the rest. Valentina Lisitsa's version was decidedly better, markedly faster, yet sounded much more delicate.

The same was true of the rach prelude 23 5. Lisitsa's was faster, sounded slower. Lang Lang jack hammered it and at one point was hilariously 95% obscured thanks to the fog machine.

My mother (a wonderful violinist in her day) peered over my shoulder and said, "who is that? All you can see is some hair."

That's Lang Lang, mom. Lang Lang and the fog that inevitably accompanies him, both literally and figuratively.

Sigh.

The shame of it is that he CAN play so well.

Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
bennevis #2128116 08/04/13 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
...but there are many classical musicians here in the UK who have no choice, if they want to survive as musicians rather than, say, waiters.

This is very true of church musicians, and horribly endemic to the Anglican Communion, sub-cathedral of course.

If some of the best church music on the planet is at Westminster Abbey under the direction of James O'Donnell (an awesomely equipped musician), I have been involved at foundations wherein the music programme seems not to have been aware that David Lloyd George kicked off in 1922. (You mean there is a new hymnal?)


Jason
Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
TwoSnowflakes #2128122 08/04/13 08:23 PM
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And then there's Kissin playing La Campanella at the Proms about 13 years ago.

http://youtu.be/M0U73NRSIkw

Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
TwoSnowflakes #2128130 08/04/13 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
He's already an international competition winner. His problem is that he often doesn't play like one. That's a large part of the problem that I, at least, have with him.

Today I pulled up La Campanella for my daughter to hear, and just for kicks, I clicked on a Lang Lang version. He utterly skipped the middle part and thumped out the rest. Valentina Lisitsa's version was decidedly better, markedly faster, yet sounded much more delicate.

The same was true of the rach prelude 23 5. Lisitsa's was faster, sounded slower. Lang Lang jack hammered it and at one point was hilariously 95% obscured thanks to the fog machine.

My mother (a wonderful violinist in her day) peered over my shoulder and said, "who is that? All you can see is some hair."

That's Lang Lang, mom. Lang Lang and the fog that inevitably accompanies him, both literally and figuratively.

Sigh.

The shame of it is that he CAN play so well.


Regarding international competitions, that was before he became incredibly famous. I agree about Lisitsa's performances being more tasteful than Lang Lang's, and that's saying something, because I can't call Lisitsa one of my favorite pianists.

For La Campanella, I like another female pianist de Larrocha! Though that's just my personal preference.

Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
bennevis #2128148 08/04/13 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by wr

We were talking about LL playing junk, remember? Not about poorly-paid orchestral musicians.

And if you prefer the Hess concerto to new music you characterize "pretentious twaddle", hey, it's your ears and brain. Enjoy...


What's 'junk' to one may be profound to another.

Many people would say that the Yellow River Concerto is 'junk' (there are plenty of scathing 'reviews' by Western critics of it - including in the Penguin Record Guide, about a recording by Ilana Vered), or that the Chinese folk song arrangements that Lang Lang also plays frequently is also 'junk'. I've already said that Lang Lang is always true to himself, and only plays music he believes in, or enjoys. The Hess piece doesn't pretend to be Beethoven, but it doesn't outstay its welcome and is melodically interesting, and Lang Lang obviously had fun playing it. (BTW, have you heard him play it?) Even if it sounds like an accompaniment to a movie or play.

Unlike some pretentious drivel occasionally churned out today (thankfully, far less than in past decades) that has no form, shape, or anything in particular, and which the 'composer' probably wouldn't recognize himself if he heard it. (I'm not just talking about music that has no obvious melody or harmony here - there's plenty of great contemporary music that don't have those). Lang Lang wouldn't play this sort of stuff (even if it was a royal commission grin) - well, he wouldn't need to, but there are many classical musicians here in the UK who have no choice, if they want to survive as musicians rather than, say, waiters.


Musicians for many years hated playing that pretentious drivel called "Le Sacre du printemps", too (some still do, likely). So what? It was and remains their job to play the music; liking what they play has never been part of the job description for the vast majority of professional musicians. If they can't deal with that, they can go be waiters, or hedge fund managers, or trek guides, or Walmart sales associates, or whatever.

But none of that has any connection to LL's various atrocities of taste, both in playing and in repertoire. And if anyone thinks the Hess concerto is profound, the development of their musical taste is still in the embryonic stage.







Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
shirlkirsten #2128179 08/04/13 09:52 PM
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I see a bit of confirmation bias. It's like some are desperately seeking something to hate about him. It's actually rather interesting to see this sort of attitude here. I would have never suspected it on a piano forum. I still suggest taking my advice since I am a fresh set of eyes, not yet part of the echo chamber.


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Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Daniel Corban #2128184 08/04/13 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Daniel Corban
It's like some are desperately seeking something to hate about him.


I'm not seeking something to hate about him. I KNOW what I hate about him... practically everything.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Orange Soda King #2128202 08/04/13 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King

For La Campanella, I like another female pianist de Larrocha! Though that's just my personal preference.


Love me some Alicia! And having lived in Spain, there's a little extra reason there to give her some love.

It's true, her La Campanella is quite possibly approaching perfection.

She was a masterful, masterful pianist.

Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Daniel Corban #2128206 08/04/13 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Daniel Corban
I see a bit of confirmation bias. It's like some are desperately seeking something to hate about him. It's actually rather interesting to see this sort of attitude here. I would have never suspected it on a piano forum. I still suggest taking my advice since I am a fresh set of eyes, not yet part of the echo chamber.


I don't think it's unusual to see the attitude here at all.

In some form, this argument has been ongoing for over 170 years, since Schumann called Henri Herz out for being too extravagant, labeling him a Philistine and declaring war against his kind of music making.

As for me, I don't really have a strong opinion. There are performances of Lang Lang's that I like and performances of his that I don't. I find it slightly annoying that it's much easier to hear him than many other fine pianists, but that's mostly the fault of the other pianists. (Living off the beaten path, I wish a lot of pianists would record more so I could hear them, especially since it's so easy to self-publish recordings these days. But I guess they'd rather play live concerts on the East Coast and bemoan the fact Deutsche Grammophon isn't knocking on their door.)


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: Controversial Lang Lang Story
Daniel Corban #2128237 08/04/13 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Daniel Corban
I still suggest taking my advice since I am a fresh set of eyes, not yet part of the echo chamber.


I agree that lack of mutually-reinforced bias is often a good thing, but it's not entirely clear to me that the negativity, even vitriol, aimed at Lang Lang is bias, or at least the kind of prejudicial bias we ought to try to avoid. It's possible that what looks like bias is actually simply an evidence-based conclusion for reasons that may not always be completely apparent to those who, like you, are new to it.

I guess my point is, sometimes there are advantages to the outsider perspective, but sometimes the advantage lies with having the long-term experience being an insider provides. The trick is knowing, in any situation, which party wears the blinders.

I don't know for sure whether you have a lot of listening experience, but not having previously been aware of who Lang Lang is suggests to me that it's possible you haven't yet heard a lot of solo pianists play.

If I'm wrong, I apologize.

And when I say "a lot of solo pianists", I mean a lot; the kind of repeated exposure that permits you to hear them overlap time and time again on similar pieces, which is how it becomes possible to make critical comparisons among them. After a while, what used to sound uniformly like spectacular monolithic talent from anybody with the chops to dare to take a stage as a soloist starts to take a more nuanced shape. Often, simply being skilled at piano by itself starts to give you the insight into what makes a good performance and what makes one great. Or, noticing when something is weird and out of balance from an interpretation standpoint, even if certain elements, in isolation, show virtuosity.

I'm no soloist, nor do I have the kind of vast listening experience many of the forum members here have. But even from my perspective, I can kind of feel it when a soloist speeds up to show off and dazzle when it doesn't make sense within the larger context of the piece. Or smushes through a section in order to hide lack of attention to detail. Fails to bring out beautiful inner voices that a better pianist would open your eyes to, and, once heard, are all to easy to spot when they are absent. All things Lang Lang does far too often, unfortunately. Despite knowing better. Despite being better. I'm sure some people just hate Lang Lang because disdain for popularity is one way people feel elite. But there are lots of others who don't hate him categorically, they just have legitimate issues with many of his performances. They are more than happy to hear him and praise him when he's on his game. I HAVE heard him play well. I am not AT ALL denying that he is capable of some very good things at the piano.

For me, I think the problem is that when he's just ripping through La Campanella, or banging out Rach 23/5, I don't need to hear it. First of all, I don't need to hear La Campanella pretty much ever again, let alone a subpar version of it. And with the rest of what he plays, I dislike the fact that I have to WONDER with Lang Lang what I'm going to get.

Which means: how likely am I to buy tickets to a concert of his when I can't tell ahead of time whether or not this is one of those times he plays well? Because he can just as easily play sloppily, assuming his audience will be distracted by the whizbang elements and not notice how ragged, uneven and unbalanced the piece as a whole is. And while that's fine from some kind of global, "what is entertainment, after all?" perspective, it doesn't really help me on a granular level. Because, given his fame, Lang Lang tickets aren't going to come cheap, and I don't know what I'm going to get. So, I don't much like that, and that seems like a pretty reasonably thing to feel. Is that bias? Or legitimate issue?

Keep in mind, I feel this way and I'm not some kind of great pianist, nor do I have the kind of mind-bogglingly large listening exposure many of the folks here have. But even at my level, it's not hard to see and hear it with some of what's out there by Lang Lang.

I really wish him well. He's talented, no doubt. I find him enormously entertaining at times. I find some of his pieces to be wonderfully nuanced and high-caliber. I like what he's doing for the world of piano, too. I just don't like how he can be really sloppy at times, and trade technique for showmanship. Maybe the audience in general screams a little louder and claps a little longer for it and that makes it ok because you should give the audience at large what it wants, but at the same time, it's not biased or prejudicial or wrongheaded to point out that by doing that, he may very well be alienating another segment of his potential audience who expect something different. And when the people who you are at the most risk for alienating are the people who are at the top of the same field YOU are in, well, that can't be ideal, can it?

So, here might be one of those times when general convergence of opinion results not so much from an echo chamber effect, as the natural result of collective vast experience being put to good work.

And even if some are simply biased for one reason or another, I should point out that the existence of bias does not preclude the possibility that they may also be correct.

I saw a great bumper sticker once: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT after you. Hee.

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