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Why China is gripped by piano mania #2851926
05/24/19 08:19 PM
05/24/19 08:19 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 7,835
Tyrone Slothrop Online content OP
Tyrone Slothrop  Online Content OP

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across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
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Re: Why China is gripped by piano mania [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2851927
05/24/19 08:27 PM
05/24/19 08:27 PM
Joined: May 2015
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Re: Why China is gripped by piano mania [Re: dogperson] #2851929
05/24/19 08:41 PM
05/24/19 08:41 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 7,835
Tyrone Slothrop Online content OP
Tyrone Slothrop  Online Content OP

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Joined: Apr 2018
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Originally Posted by dogperson
This article can only be viewed by subscribers

Why China is gripped by piano mania

The inaugural China International Music Competition comes at a time when concert halls are packed with young audiences

James Imam YESTERDAY

Three formidable young pianists battled it out at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts. The accompanying Philadelphia Orchestra, on lush, electric form under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, drove their playing to exceptional heights. Tony Siqi Yun, a cherubic 18-year-old Canadian with mettle to match his baby-soft touch, was crowned victor before an expectant crowd. Siqi Yun looks every bit the star of tomorrow. For now, he must be content with his unprecedented $150,000 cash prize.

This was not the historic Chopin or Tchaikovsky piano competition (the prize money for their top awards is not a quarter of the size) but the first China International Music Competition (CIMC) — the new contest with the biggest award of any comparable event worldwide. Also gifted to the winner are three-year contracts with artist managers Opus 3 (Europe and America) and Armstrong Music & Arts (China). For the runners-up Alexander Malofeev and Mackenzie Melemed, prizes of $75,000 and $30,000 were not small consolations.

It is a striking centrepiece to a national classical music scene that is booming. China boasts over 80 orchestras, many of them new creations. Concert halls are typically full with young audiences. In particular, the nation is gripped by piano mania, with an estimated 40m children learning to play the instrument. The extraordinary fame acquired by the pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi partly explains the phenomenon.

China is seeking to shift the classical music industry’s epicentre into home territory. Impressive new concert halls in Harbin, Shanghai and Beijing mean that it has the infrastructure. Now, top-flight educational institutions are required. China’s 11 conservatories, founded mostly in the 1950s, are not yet world-class. Not coincidentally, the best of Lang Lang’s generation pursued postgraduate studies in America and Europe.

“There is a definite attempt to raise the level of the teaching. They want to bring real artistry into the mix, to show the difference between technically sound playing and really expressive playing,” says Yoheved Kaplinsky, chair of piano at the Juilliard School in New York and jury chair and artistic director of the CIMC competition. “More and more Chinese players are coming back from the west to work as professors. That is really helping raise standards,” she explains.

Competitions are springing up all over China, many of them organised by conservatories. Their aim is to raise quality and prestige by drawing students hungry for solo careers. The rivalry is intense. Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music launched a version of Warsaw’s International Chopin Piano Competition following President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Poland in 2016. The response of the China Conservatory, its main local competitor, was to create the CIMC.

Such events are lavishly funded by the government, demonstrating that classical music is now back in official favour. Down the road from the Conservatory, on the eve of the semi-finals, Xi rallied Asian leaders at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations. Alongside conspicuous Belt and Road infrastructure investment, culture provides a subtler form of soft power. Xi, whose wife is an ex-China Conservatory student, has said, “Chinese art will further develop only when we make foreign things serve China.” It is remarkable to think that Mao’s Cultural Revolution, during which the war on “degenerate” western music culminated in the execution of prominent musical figures such as Shanghai Symphony conductor Lu Hongen, took place less than half a century ago.

Wang Liguang, an influential Chinese Communist party member and editor of half a dozen state-run newspapers, is president of the China Conservatory and of the China International Competition. “The government is using music to purify the souls of the people,” Wang explains via a translator. “This is the message that we send to the world: that we are nurturing our local traditions but harnessing the essence of the advanced western culture [to] make Chinese culture shine more brightly.”

Wang’s innovations include establishing a piano department and founding the Global Leadership Network on Higher Music Education. The latter is a forum for international conservatory professionals to meet and discuss teaching practices and competitions.

Western expertise is key to the Conservatory’s development. The competition would not have been possible without it. Kaplinsky assembled a line-up of leading jurors and appointed Richard Rodzinski, the veteran former organiser of the Van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky competitions, as general director to build the event. Due to time pressures, 20 pianists were selected directly rather than through application. The three very different finalists made for a fascinatingly poised culmination.

“Getting Richard on board means that everything has run smoothly, and this competition has felt well-established from the word go,” says Kaplinsky. But the challenges of setting up the event in highly bureaucratic China have been immense. According to Rodzinski, “every single budgeting decision needs to be approved, so it all goes much more slowly.” How much did the competition cost the government? Nobody I ask is able to reveal. “All I can say is that less money has been spent on the internal workings than would usually happen in the west, and that more has been spent on the publicly visible prize,” Rodzinski says.

Eager to cash in, western classical music institutions are piling into China. Deutsche Grammophon recently signed Yu Long — the music director of the Shanghai Symphony, the China Philharmonic and the Guangzhou Symphony orchestras, commonly known as “China’s Karajan” — and launched its 120th anniversary celebrations not in Germany but in China. Later this year, the Juilliard School will open its first overseas campus in Tianjin. Western teachers are drawn to China for “money, opportunity and interest,” says Kaplinsky. “Teachers like teaching, and here there is talent galore and interest galore.”

Few have closer ties than the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1973, it was America’s first ensemble to tour the People’s Republic of China, a musical complement to Nixon’s ping-pong diplomacy. The orchestra’s trips draw adoring fans today. Currently, as the Trump-Xi trade war looms, it is touring the nation for the 12th time.

“Our relationship with China is like a piece of music growing from silence to a crescendo. Over the years it has acquired extraordinary richness and depth,” says Matías Tarnopolsky, the orchestra’s chief executive. Education through masterclasses, workshops and cultural exchanges has been a focus of the current tour. Are trips to China lucrative? “We wouldn’t do them if we couldn’t afford to,” Tarnopolsky replies cautiously. The orchestra’s ongoing search for a Chinese board member suggests there are high rewards to be gained.

Yu Long, who I speak to on the phone, is a passionate educator. More children must learn to enjoy personal and collective expression, he says, rather than simply seek technical brilliance and fame. In Yu’s Shanghai Orchestra Academy children are mentored with input from players from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with the aim of removing the stigma associated with ensemble playing.

Are soloist-centric competitions therefore counterproductive? Yu thinks not, using his own Shanghai-based Isaac Stern International Violin Competition as an example. Emphasis is placed on the ensemble round, while asking contestants to write their own cadenzas promotes creativity. The conductor’s comments provide food for thought. For China to become a classical music superpower, it must also fill those newly created orchestras.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Comments [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2852037
05/25/19 08:40 AM
05/25/19 08:40 AM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 310
Mountain Brook, AL, USA
jeffscot Offline
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Posts: 310
Mountain Brook, AL, USA

You left out the comments, Tyrone.
They were more entertaining than the article.


.... Jeff ▫️ Yamaha P515 ▫️ Roll Tide
Re: Comments [Re: jeffscot] #2852069
05/25/19 10:26 AM
05/25/19 10:26 AM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 7,835
Tyrone Slothrop Online content OP
Tyrone Slothrop  Online Content OP

7000 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 7,835
Originally Posted by jeffscot

You left out the comments, Tyrone.
They were more entertaining than the article.

That was intentional. A few were entertaining. 3 of them were "dog-whistles." So rather than editorialize by "curating" the comments, I just left them all out.


across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: Comments [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2852103
05/25/19 12:17 PM
05/25/19 12:17 PM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 573
UK
S
ShyPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member
ShyPianist  Offline
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S

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 573
UK
Thoughts on the winner? For me, very good but not exceptional. Gutted for Melemed.


Pianist, independent music arranger, violinist, mother
Re: Comments [Re: ShyPianist] #2852172
05/25/19 03:47 PM
05/25/19 03:47 PM
Joined: Aug 2017
Posts: 141
V
Vilhelm Moqvist Offline
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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
Thoughts on the winner? For me, very good but not exceptional. Gutted for Melemed.

For me, Yun is a very skilled pianist but he is lacking in individuality, and this is why Melemed was my favorite. He and Malofeev were both very memorable, although in different ways.

Re: Comments [Re: ShyPianist] #2852203
05/25/19 06:48 PM
05/25/19 06:48 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 23,097
Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
[...]Gutted for Melemed.


What does that mean?

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: Comments [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2852266
05/26/19 02:56 AM
05/26/19 02:56 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 4,109
H
Hakki Offline
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Hakki  Offline
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IMO in many ways it is a good thing.
It might help the piano industry and the classical music industry. And it might help the conservatories, teachers etc.
It might help new talents to show themselves on the international arena as well.

Re: Comments [Re: Hakki] #2852272
05/26/19 03:49 AM
05/26/19 03:49 AM
Joined: Sep 2015
Posts: 2,537
Dublin
johnstaf Online crying
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johnstaf  Online Crying
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Joined: Sep 2015
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Dublin
Originally Posted by Hakki
IMO in many ways it is a good thing.
It might help the piano industry and the classical music industry. And it might help the conservatories, teachers etc.
It might help new talents to show themselves on the international arena as well.


Absolutely. Hopefully some of that enthusiasm can be exported westwards as well. The English-speaking world, especially, could do with it. Imagine founding orchestras instead of disbanding them!

Re: Comments [Re: BruceD] #2852274
05/26/19 03:55 AM
05/26/19 03:55 AM
Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 573
UK
S
ShyPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member
ShyPianist  Offline
500 Post Club Member
S

Joined: Feb 2019
Posts: 573
UK
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by ShyPianist
[...]Gutted for Melemed.


What does that mean?

Regards,


For me he was the stand out player and most certainly did not deserve to be placed third.


Pianist, independent music arranger, violinist, mother
Re: Comments [Re: BruceD] #2852292
05/26/19 05:53 AM
05/26/19 05:53 AM
Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 12,455
B
bennevis Offline
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B

Joined: Oct 2010
Posts: 12,455
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by ShyPianist
[...]Gutted for Melemed.


What does that mean?

Regards,

'Gutted' is a uniquely British expression, akin to a fish being gutted for daring to be caught on a bait wink .


"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."

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