Sicklist: Lang Lang is down with flu

Sicklist: Lang Lang is down with flu


norman lebrecht

March 04, 2017

The Rhode Island Philharmonic has replaced him tomorrow in Mozart with Robert Levin.

No refunds are being offered.

It’s the orchestra’s biggest fundraiser.


  • John says:

    Hope Mr. Levin has some of that Liberace flair of Mr. Lang.

  • Urs Liska says:

    Funny idea to replace Lang with Levin. Apart from the initial letter there’s basically nothing these have in common …

  • MacroV says:

    Musically I’d say it’s an improvement. But since I assume Levin’s normal fee is a small fraction of Lang Lang’s – and tickets were probably priced on the Lang Lang scale – potentially interesting question about revenues and expenses.

  • V.Lind says:

    Never heard of him. I don’t care if he can play Lang Lang’s socks off, fundraisers need star power and LL has it. He draws people who know him through crossover and Olympics and such and when all you want is to raise dough, that’s the service required.

    I’ve been to a Lang Lang fundraising gala. He gives good value — friendly to all the punters, poses for pictures with them, goes to the reception and the dinner, and in this instance played the Chopin very well.

    Mr. Levin may do all those things, but who will care? I would be incandescent if I did not receive a refund in the face of this substitution. And I doubt, under contract and advertising laws, whether they can get away wit it in the face of a protest. They were unlucky given the short notice, but that is NOT the fault of people looking for a glamour night out. An academic? Who seems never to have recorded? Pay them back, swallow your losses (much of which will be culinary, I suspect — well, there’s always the Food Bank) and schedule another fundraiser ASAP.

    And don’t have them in winter — better odds of sickness.

    • Observer says:

      Robert Levin is “an academic who seems never to have recorded”? How blatantly ignorant. There probably won’t be any golden shoes on stage, but for sure there will be some great and enlightening music making to be shared with everyone. He will give a very different kind of show – one that I would gladly pay for, especially given the difficult situation the Rhode Island Philharmonic is unexpectedly faced with.

    • jaypee says:

      “An academic? Who seems never to have recorded? ”

      Ever heard of google?
      BTW, saw him in Vienna, at the Theater an der Wien a couple of years ago. He was part of a concert that repeated the legendary 1808 concert with Beethoven’s 5th and 6th symphonies, the 4th piano concerto, the Fantasy for piano, choir and orchestra… He also improvised on themes that were provided by the public. On top of being a fabulous musician, he also is a great “entertainer”.
      He may not be as well known as Lang Lang but I’m pretty sure that no one will be disappointed.

      • V.Lind says:

        I apologise for my own ignorance. But you can hardly claim he is a household name. I am not disputing his skill — I made that clear in my second sentence. I am disputing his value as a fundraiser and claiming the right of people who have paid for a “star” attraction to get one.

        I am getting a little tired of concert halls and orchestras that reserve the “right” to alter programmes — this was not their fault, but neither was it that of people who presumably paid very high tariffs for their tickets — without offering the punters the option of declining a replacement and getting a refund.

        It lines up with the similarly arrogant — or desperate — fiats of the same institutions that if the seats requested are not available, the punter will take “best available. I once ordered a ballet subscription at very high price and gave the hall a wide range of options: left OR right side, between rows G and P, and with a choice of 20 seats in each row. That’s 400 seats, some better than others. I was ticketed in Row Y, which outrageously was the same price as those I had offered as my choices. House policy meant I could not decline them, and I had to change nights on all my events.

        Orchestras, and other companies, maintain with some justice that they want to attract subscribers in order to know their funding levels for the season. But they do not deserve subscribers when they treat them as so much fodder for the coffers. And it is particularly galling when it is discovered that some seats were “held,” and last-minute purchasers can get the seats you asked for while you are supposed (O “valued” subscriber) to go where they put you months earlier under the threat of there not being seats available for your programmes if you did not book early.

        My objection is not to Mr. Levin replacing Lang Lang — it sounds as if they were very lucky to get him on such short notice. My objection is to the patrons not being able to opt out of this performance, with refund.

        • Steven Holloway says:

          Some recordings by Robert Levin: complete Beethoven Concerti on Archiv, Beethoven’s Cello Sonatas with Isserlis on Hyperion, Bach’s WTC/Harpsichord Concerti/English Suites on Haenssler, Mozart Concerti on L’Oiseau-Lyre, Schubert Music for Piano Four Hands on Archiv, Mozart Piano Sonatas on Harmonia Mundi…look up the rest yourself.

          I happen to agree with you about orchestras’ handling of cancellations — notably hereabouts keeping them secret. However, if this is indeed a fundraiser, I should rather expect that LL is not charging his customary massive fee, yes? Else, it makes little sense. Far too often, the orchestra admin. here gets in Perlman — always Perlman — who most certainly does charge his way OTT fee, they charge extra-high prices for tickets, and always make a loss. I’m not sure this achieves anything, apart from pissing off the orchestral players, for it makes no sense to them and it also gets a touch boring. The Perlman appearance is not intended to be a fundraiser, but rather a loss-leader, an attention-getter. A true fundraiser in this RI case would mean LL contributing his services, playing for expenses, or at least a very much reduced fee. Luring people in to see LL will either a) not result in more subscribers, or b) result in subscription by newcomers who may be mightily disappointed when they attend the first concert of the following season. Few people who bought Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 after Elvia Madigan was released became ardent classical music lovers. They just liked that melody and that was it. Sony, it may be remembered, had the idiotic idea that because movie-goes liked the slow movement from Mahler’s 5th., a CD of all Mahler symphony slow movements would hit the charts. All they got was a lawsuit from Claudio Abbado. In sum, there is not much sense in any of these shenanigans, but then there is not much sense in the noggins of executives in any area of the classical music world these days.

        • jaypee says:

          On the other hand… think of the people who paid to see Bruno Walter conduct the New York Philharmonic on November 14, 1943 and who, instead, got this young and unknown American conductor…

    • Karl Muck says:

      yes, Levin is little known, but just for poor idiots who only know LL.

    • David Gasper says:

      I work for the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and we did give refunds.

    • d. gasper says:

      You are assuming way too much. We were offered one date, two years in advance. No repertoire guarantee. Bartok concerto forced, than changed a week before to Mozart. Then cancellation on Friday before the Sunday concert; notice to ticket buyers on the same day as soon as we had a replacement. Refunds given.

    • David Beauchesne - Executive Director RIPO says:

      The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra gave refunds to all patrons who requested it. We understand that while many purchased tickets to support the orchestra, others purchased tickets because of Lang Lang, and we did not wish to disappoint.

  • Minutewaltz says:

    I hope LL is better in time for his Albert Hall recital. I’ll be disappointed if not.
    Anyway, get well soon Lang Lang.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    It is still winter. Spring is around the corner. And flu sticks around irrespective of the seasons. Better a pianist with flu being replaced with one who is without flu and go ahead with the concert. My peeve is the obnoxious rattle of relentless coughing in the audience, no matter which season.

  • Sue says:

    I’d MUCH prefer to hear Professor Levin. One hundred times over.

  • sylvia craft says:

    The people of Rhode Island are being given a gift in Robert Levin. I’m so pleased I’ll be relocating soon to Providence; this tells me I’ve made a wise decision.
    Sylvia Craft

    • David Beauchesne - Executive Director RIPO says:

      Sylvia, we look forward to welcoming you to Providence when you arrive, and to seeing you at a Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra concert.

  • Nigel says:

    In nearly all cases, the high fee for someone like LL is paid for by a benefactor as a gift to the institution’s fund raiser so the box office revenue (less other normal expenses) can be retained. LL and his agents would in no case lower their fee for a fund raiser in Rhode Island of all places. In fact, events like that are where the money is! In any case, Levin is fascinating and it’s worth suffering through his arrogance and social awkwardness to hear and learn something from him, especially if it’s Mozart.

    • Peggy Sweeney says:

      Robert Levin is anything but arrogant — and I find it amusing that a contributor to this blog would call someone “arrogant.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!

      Robert Levin is a brilliant Mozart interpreter — he’s completed several works that Mozart left unfinished and I challenge anyone to know where Mozart left off and Levin began. And his improvised cadenzas along are worth the price of admission.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Robert Levin’s embellishments and improvisations were a rare treat tonight. Overall, his playing was stylish and thoughtful. The RI Philharmonic under Larry Rachleff played beautifully too, also in Beethoven’s 5th symphony.
        I was not planning to attend the Lang Lang event. Upon hearing that Robert Levin was replacing him, I rushed to buy tickets. That was a real treat.

  • Peggy Sweeney says:

    Obviously I meant “alone” — not “along”

  • George King says:

    Robert Levin is likely to be a VAST improvement over Lang Lang, and probably over many other substitutes too. One of the few people around who understands Mozart’s musical language and has the technical ability to bring it off in performance. Read the chapter ‘Speaking Mozart’s Lingo’ in Bernard D. Sherman’s *Inside Early Music* (OUP, 1997) if you have any doubts.

  • Brendan says:

    !Refunds were given.