Hot pic: Yundi declares victory over Lang Lang

Hot pic: Yundi declares victory over Lang Lang


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2013

yundicostaThe picture below has gone white-hot on weibo, the Chinese social site. It shows Yundi Li giving a ‘V’ for victory sign with Universal classics chief, Costa Pilavachi. Our Chinese friends interpret this as victory over his arch-rival, who quit Universal for Sony.



  • Hasbeen says:

    Or perhaps it could be compared to the famous V sign given by Richard Nixon on his way into exile ! Why turn it into a popularity contest. Aren’t they both artists of merit ? Were Gilels and Richter arch rivals or Rubinstein and Arrau or Pollini and Michelangeli ? Does it help either of the pianists ?

  • David H. says:

    I think a reputable classical music blog should not participate in the trivializing, dumbing down, brutalizing and commercializing of what is left over of the high arts, l’art pour l’art.

    Who cares what Universal and Yundi think. We should only care, what music they produce. Both of these Chinese keyboard clowns are only mildly interesting.

  • Roger Walton says:

    If this is, as written, “a sign of victory” over another fellow Chinese musician, or any musician for that matter, then it is entirely pathetic, with a capital ‘P’! If Universal Music, its management and its artists rejoice in claiming a “victory” over another fellow musician, who happened to leave one of their labels (Deutsche Grammophon) for a different label, Sony, then they have once again proven that they are lowly beings who see the signing, promotion and distribution of their artists’ like some sort of competitive sport, a one-upmanship game, reducing music to a secondary role, a simple excuse to “make noise” and inflate their already inflated egos.

    The information that I have heard countless times, is quite simple as to why Lang lang left Deutsche Grammophon. He, like so many other intelligent, decent artists, was fed up with dealing with incompetent idiots at Universal Classics, who unfortunately see the music “business” like some sort of competitive sport, where their management repeatedly exercise their infantile schoolboy impulses, more often than not signing artists based not on their musical competence, but on everything but that. This picture of Yundi Li together with Costa Pilavachi is another proof of such idiocy, if indeed they are claiming “victory” over another musician. Message for Universal Music: Music is not a competitive sport, it is not a war. It is not a competition on who can one-up another artist, on who can be the most aggressively vulgar, unethical and tasteless and still succeed. You have already done enough damage to a once great industry and turned thousands of once loyal trusting consumers into suspicious and doubtful ones. Please stop, for the sake of music!

    • Anon says:

      Roger, that seems like a heck of a lot to posit on the basis of an “if”.

      It seems just as possible that the two pictured were posing for an amusing photograph after a successful concert, event, or tour. I suggest that’s more likely than somehow posing for a picture which has anything to do with another artist, whatever Norman’s Chinese friends might read in to it.

  • Ok. If by this ‘contest’ more and more people – young and younger one’s in forefront – get interested in classical music? Hurray! Otherwise: what’s all the fuzz about?

  • Lindsey says:

    I don’t know who is your source of information, but your comment is misleading and a travesty. As a native Chinese, I can tell you that the V sign is a popular photo pose in China, with no particular meaning attached. You can find thousands of pictures of Chinese youth posing the V sign simply because it is “cool”.

    In his ‘weibo’, the Chinese social site, Yundi only mentioned that Mr. Costa attended his recital and that his new album is coming soon. Your post belligerently misrepresented his post that it borderline ridiculous.

    I strongly suggest you check out your “Chinese Friend”, who has been constantly feeding you mis-information about China and Chinese classical music circle. Your “reports” on Chinese pianists are quickly losing credibility because of that.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    How long will it be before there is a three pianists (Lang, Yundi, Yuja) tour in the Far East and beyond?

  • John says:

    I can just imagine Emil Gilels or Alfred Brendel giving each other a fist-pump. Or Bernstein and Fischer-Dieskau banging chests.

    So classy . . .

  • Michael says:

    Yundi Li or Lang Lang,what a thrilling choice ! My head is aching .

    I think I ‘ll put on some Moritz Rosenthal ….

  • Lauren says:

    After spending a number of years in the rock music and Hollywood entertainment business I began moving towards the classic arts, in part due to my changing tastes in the artistic realm but also because I believed (erroneously) that the genre was more civilised. What a shame that competitiveness, profiteering, bigotry (of all varieties), and jealousy are rife in classical arts. What a pity. As for the two artists in question, I hope they can see the reality of the situation and rise above it all and focus on the music.

    • The big problem is the fact that the repertoire doesn’t renew itself quickly enough. So, in order to maintain public interest, the focus shifts from the music to political shenanigans like this. Musicals I conducted which ran well i.e. were always sold out and which didn’t have any cast insurgencies or anything like that, were the scene of hideous politicking, mainly at Head Ofice, though, not so much in the theatre itself. It’s almost as if people feel they need to create problems and friction just to show their existence is still justified. Rather pathetic, all told.

      • Lauren says:

        I agree that it seems that some people are never happy unless they make someone else unhappy. Egoistic behaviour is often the cause of the demise of great, or potentially great, enterprises. I am currently reading Private Domain, modern dancer Paul Taylor’s autobiography. His recounting of various insanities on the road with his troupe brings back some painful and hilarious memories of my own journeys in pursuit of art. I do hate it when creatives are distracted by the suits with faux rows between artists or monetary problems. Nietzsche was right that the highest pursuit of the human is the arts. I just wish that we could just get on with the creation process without having to starve and/or be torn asunder by the wheels of commerce and petty jealousies. As to your first point, I too find that there is not enough forward momentum in regard to repertoire. The artist grows weary of playing the same pieces endlessly and there simply isn’t enough new music written in the classic music genre (nor musical theatre) that can match the old masters. Sorry for the moan but sometimes having to struggle so hard to create something beautiful or meaningful or both gets wearing. Behaviour like this Lang Lang, Li business is so tawdry; I expect more from the classic arts. Perhaps, like indie rock and jazz has done, the classic arts need to break with the record companies and massively expensive, unionised halls and take the music back to the people. Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA are experimenting with new ways to bring the classical arts to the people with some success. In Oregon, there is a $5 ticket programme for people living below the poverty level to enjoy the symphony,ballet, opera, Shakespeare theatre et cetera. I am so impressed with this concept that I am moving there to see how it is working and find ways to expand the reach of these concepts. I do believe that art heals and elevates society – this may be the way forward.

  • Michael J. Stewart says:

    Pathetic. Ignoble.

  • MacroV says:

    Who cares. There are 100 pianists I’d listen to before either of these guys. And the world is big enough for the two of them. How about a U.S. rivalry between, say, Jonathan Biss and Jeremy Denk! (score one for Denk and his MacArthur grant)?