The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Sony buys pianist Lang Lang for million$

February 6, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Though the young Chinese pianist has been dubbed “Bang Bang’ by critics for his eccentric flamboyance and showy virtuosity, apparently Lang Lang is a hot commodity, hotter now than ever.

He sure can sell records and even an autobiography he recently published. And he has apparently triggered a major wave of piano lessons among young children in his native China called the “Lang Lang Effect.”

But for all that, I guess he’s temperamental and insecure too.

He asked the prestigious label Deutsche Grammophon to drop his fellow Chinese pianist – Yundi Li (below) – and DG quickly obliged, even though I find Li to be much the superior pianist and musician.

But then I usually favored Rubinstein over Horowitz too.

Anyway, when it comes to the precarious business of classical music these days, loyalty only goes so far on either side of the commercial equation.

Sony Records apparently went shopping for Lang Lang with an unlimited black check in hand.

And the quest was successful. For the sum of $3 million, Lang-Lang is now – a drum roll, please — a SONY artist.

Here are some links to stories about the capital capture of Lang Lang:

Plus, Lang Lang has become a pitchman for an aircraft company:

And here is a link to a “60 Minutes” piece about Lang Lang, who also performed at the Nobel Prizes and who has been called more popular than the Beatles and the world’s most popular pianist:

And here’s his home site:

And although Yundi Li has apparently found home at Angel-EMI, I hope that DG will approach him again and ask him to come home.

Funny, but all the action in pianists now seems Asia-related. There’s Lang-Lang and Yundi Li; Yuja Wang and Sa Chen; the Van Cliburn competition winners Nobuyuki Tsuji, Yeol Eum Son and Haochen Zhang; and the Japanese-German Alice Sara Ott, who tops them all so far in my book.

Anyone I’m missing?

Any speculation about why that is and what it means for the West?

What do you think of Lang-Lang?

Do you like or dislike his playing?

What are his best and worst recordings?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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