So what time’s the next Lang Lang?

Elisabeth Braw has written a smart piece today in the Economist on the rising competitiveness of Chinese orchestras and classical musicians:

It is in bringing orchestras, opera performances and top individual performers to the West that China is showing its real clout. Jindong Cai of Stanford University, who conducts in both China and the United States, describes the push in soft-power terms: “A product manufactured in China is not as important for China’s international profile. Cultural power is much more important.”

She’s absolutely right (full article here).

But we’re hearing rumbles of anxiety. The Chinese classical boost was powered by Lang Lang and Yundi Li. Both rose at the turn of the century.

Since then, however, there has been no Chinese star of comparable magnitude. Without another driver, the train will run out of steam.

Much of the new talent seems to be Korean.


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  • If China continues to value the performing arts and continues to invest in venues, personnel, and provides a decent standard of living as GDP grows, then the real sign of success will be for Chinese orchestras to be able to poach star orchestral players to come and live in China rather than import orchestras like Philly for weeks at a time.

  • China like to produce very good imitations of everything the “western world” products from french delicaties to classical pianists. That’s not a real cultural “imperium “. China should be able to “impose” real chinese cultural fashions, inspired by it’s own background if it were a real cultural superpower as the americans did with hollywood films.

    • Rather condescending comments.

      China and Japan both love art music and have done (particularly the latter) for decades. Carlos Kleiber used to go to Japan in the 80’s and was treated as a god. In a book about Kleiber, by Charles Barber, the author claims those Asian nations wanted to find ‘acceptance’ in the classical music world by European people. Look back at films of the Wiener Philharmoniker Neujahrskonzert from decades ago and you’ll see Japanese people in the audience.

      I agree with the earlier comment that the Chinese will satiate their own demands for western art music by poaching the very best musicians, particularly from the USA. I’m very glad that, as somebody over 60, I can rest easier knowing that the music I adore will be carried into perpetuity with certainty. And consumed in such huge numbers!!

    • Sure, but she “rose at the turn of the century” too. It’s rather disheartening to make these youngsters sound like passé antiquities!

      • The South Koreans are making inroads into art music. The Chopin Competition last year was won by a young man from that country. So, an even wider audience base for European art music is guaranteed. I can’t stop cheering.

        The the SK people punch above their weight in just about most things. All hail South Korea (except for their recent political scandals).

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