Exclusive: Yuja Wang is dropped by her agent

Exclusive: Yuja Wang is dropped by her agent


norman lebrecht

December 06, 2018

The boutique artists’ manager Mark Newbanks has dropped the pianist from his elite list, apparently for being too high maintenance.

Mark erased Yuja from his website this month and she has reciprocated in kind.

This is an uncomfortable situation for an international artist, but she won’t be alone for long. The vultures are circling quite low in the sky.

Mark Newbanks is left with just three conductors – Dudamel, Salonen and Lionel Bringuier.

UPDATE: Yuja gets half an agent


  • May says:

    I find the first sentence in this article to be extremely sexist. Where in these pages are men accused of being “high maintenance”? Is Daniele Gatti also “high maintenance” for his manager? “Maintenance” has replaced “uppity” as a demeaning term for women who must fight to receive equal treatment as men. It is a revolting expression and should not be used to describe professional relationships, let alone personal ones.

    I can’t imagine it is easy work being Ms Wang’s manager, however she is a unique artist. As she exhausts the traditional repertoire and wishes to expand beyond the core war horses, it is probably difficult work to deal with stodgy orchestras. But to label her “high maintenance”? If Mr Newbanks referred to her this way, then please put the offensive words in quotes. Or remove the slur and provide concrete examples of the difficulties that Mr Newbanks has.

    • FS60103 says:

      Since you ask, here’s where he accused Lang Lang of being high maintenance:


      Perhaps time to close down the synthetic outrage factory? There’s enough of the real stuff to go around, after all.

      • May says:

        Might you provide another example? I am also offended, and not synthetically, by Norman’s referring to LL as high maintenance. Lang Lang is flamboyant, an attribute usually attributed to women, and there are enough rumours about his homosexuality to provide lift for a 747. Accusing a man of being high maintenance is the same as calling him a diva or a cunt or a whore or simply difficult, all of which epithets usually reserved for women, unless the man in question is being further denigrated by attributing him with female characteristics. The problem here, Mr Frankfurter, is that men, including yourself, have become so immune to sexist use of language and fail to recognise, simply writing it off as synthetic because you have come to accept that there is something “normal” about sexism. Before you respond, give it some thought. Sexism is pervasive, and often not recognised since it sometimes appears normalised. Thanks for reading this far…

        • Mark says:

          “Accusing a man of being high maintenance is the same as calling him a diva or a cunt or a whore or simply difficult” — to be “difficult” is not in the same category as any of the other pseudo-equivalences you mention. And it has nothing at all to do with gender or anatomy.

          I work among researchers, not musicians. Many of them are male. Our IT department quite frankly refers to some of them as being “high maintenance”, by which they mean requiring an unusual degree of tact when explaining the source of technical issues, or requiring more hand-holding and coddling because of often arbitrary personal preferences that would violate security policies if carried through.

          In short, “high maintenance” is not a sexist description. If you choose to see it that way, that is not necessarily an indictment of all the people and situations to which it applies.

          • May says:

            Mark, another perfect example of unconscious sexism that you’ve demonstrated for us. Let me however first say that I am not accusing you of being sexist, however I wish to point out how women see it when you downplay sexist language. The fact that you refer to some male colleagues as “high maintenance” further demonstrates my point: you and your fellow researchers have adopted the use of a sexist term to label men as having attributes often associated (and in the case of the term “high maintenance”, originally associated) with women. It has ceased to be a sexist description in your mind only because you have become numb to the origins of the chauvinistic epithet. Perhaps in the beginning you might have found it even amusing to start calling men “high maintenance”, and with time, you adjusted to using it, forgetting that it is indeed offensive to women. This is the problem with sexism and why it is so important to address and shout out sexist language. Sexist language is not harmless; it is cunningly pervasive, since it infiltrates even supposed enlightened minds.

          • June says:

            May, herself, seems quite high maintenance. Or am I being sexist by assuming that May is a woman’s name?

          • June says:

            May, herself, sounds quite high maintenance. Or am I being sexist by assuming that May is a woman’s name?

          • Mark says:

            Both the speaker and the listener must agree, at least broadly, on the meanings of words, or else communication is impossible. To impute even “unconscious sexism” to my use of a term is, indeed, to accuse me of being sexist: that is, to make a statement about my INTENT based purely on your reaction. That way lies madness. Obliviousness and sexism are NOT the same.

            ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

            ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

            ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

            (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass)

        • Symphony musician says:

          English seems to be your first language, in which case you should be aware of the offensive force of the ‘c’ word. Please be more considerate towards the wide and varied readership of this blog, which includes, I hope and imagine, some younger children.

          • Bruce says:

            Apparently it’s not considered such a bad word in the UK… neither is “twat” for that matter. Although May does seem rather American in her (?) love of dudgeon, so equating “difficult” with “cunt” might be a case of American overreach…

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Huh? The c— word is absolutely not appropriate in any written form in Britain.

            And calling someone “high maintenance” is not sexist. I know of more “high maintenance” men than women.

        • Bruce says:

          Question: is there any term meaning “difficult to work with” or “hard to satisfy” or, I don’t know, “picky,” that you would consider not sexist? I’m being serious.

          I ask because I caught myself about to say things like “‘high maintenance’ is not a sexist term,” which would obviously not help the conversation progress, and besides I may be wrong.

          There needs to be a way to describe such people, and it seems there must be words or terms we can use that are not sexist.

          • dick says:

            how about “a lot of work”? or “difficult”? or “needing some ganja”? or “egomaniac”? or, even, “asshole”?

            i really think i could go on and on…

      • Jaime Herrera says:

        Bravo!!!! A thousand times bravo!!!!!!

    • Bone says:

      So speculative criticism which makes no mention of gender is now considered sexist? Okay, got it: no woman can be criticized by a man.

      • Antonia says:

        I’m a woman, and I didn’t find the comment sexist.

        I also had no inkling at all, nor have I ever heard the slightest rumor, that L.L. might be gay. This, despite countless discussions with other piano pedagogues about him.

    • Jaime Herrera says:

      He did not say “high maintenance,” he said “TOO high maintenance.” Some “high maintenance” or whininess can be tolerated but to cater to every whim and complaint can just drive an agent nuts. Agents have things to do. Don’t call them every ten minutes….. Please.

  • Disgusted says:

    Dear Norman,

    Did you speak to Yuja? Did you give her the chance of stating her version before publishing that she is “dropped” because she is “too high maintenance”?

    I find it no less than disgusting that, in a situation like this, an agent gets more credit than an artist l. Last time I checked Yuja was the one going on stage, dazzling audiences, being provocative, opening her heart, making music and taking risks. Isn’t she allowed to be picky, to be demanding, to want an agent who protects her and helps her shape her furure steps? Is that high maintenance?

  • Hestia says:

    I wanna know how is she considered high-maintanence

  • Many says:

    If he has Mo. Dudamel and EP as clients as well, I am sure she is not taking up that much time in comparison. I guess there has to be another reason if he fired her.

    • Mark says:

      He’s an agent. He worked for her, not the other way around. He can quit, but he can’t fire her, since she hired him.

  • Joe Gallagher says:

    Mr. Newbanks is not ‘dropping’ Ms Wang. He is quitting his job. The “high maintenance” BS is cover for not being able to do his job.

  • Robert Groen says:

    I assume that the term ’boutique artist’ is Lebrecht Speak for a young lady with a personal taste in apparel who happens to be one of the great keyboard players of modern times. Tells me more about old Norman than it does about Yuja Wang. So I, for one, am not surprised.

    • Helvetius says:

      I think he means a boutique (i.e., small) agency. There’s a lot of reaching for outrage on this thread in general…

    • scott says:

      It was a reference to the exclusivity of his management. He only manages 3 artists. Very unusual in the classical music management business

  • Fliszt says:

    Did Mark Newbanks actually release a statement saying that Ms. Wang was “high maintenance”? If so, that’s highly unprofessional. Whether true or not, the only responsible statement would be that they parted ways by mutual agreement. Nothing more need be said.

  • Ben says:


    All those liberals ran out of meat to support the semi-nude YW. Look at all those the political correctness guns and bazooka!

    What a wonderful side-show.

  • Bill says:

    Or maybe he decided he just wants to represent conductors.

  • M McAlpine says:

    For goodness sake, it is a managers job to ‘maintain’ their artists. What this guy is saying is that he can’t do his job properly so he puts responsibility on the artist. A cop out!

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Maybe he thinks the money isn’t worth the amount of work he has to do for her. He might just prefer to concentrate on his other artists.

  • TERRY BAER says:


  • D C Horst says:

    Great move Yuja! The next time I’m fired or quit my job I’ll yell “I dropped the company!!” When my boss expects and demands the highest level of professionalism and competence from me I’ll complain “He’s too high maintenance!” This guy needs a Louboutain thrown at him!

  • Anon says:

    I’d venture to say she’ may be “high mantenance” because she has a much busier concert agenda than Mark’s conducting clients. Yuja is everywhere. She keeps a rigourous full schedule of engagements at all times. I remember asking her once how many concerts she plays a year and it was extraordinary.

    A manager would have to be on top of all of that and it’s a lot of work. It makes more sense that Mark concentrates on his conducting clients, who have lighter schedules which are easier to coordinate and supervise.

  • Theresa says:

    I bet many agents wish they were in a position to get rid of their artists for being too high maintenance if only they could afford. Alas, it might have been the other way around since it has been an open secret for weeks that Mrs Wang was about to leave her agent.

  • barry guerrero says:

    Regardless of what name you give it, Kathleen Battle’s career seems to have gone south since the Met dropped her for being such a ‘pain in the ____’ . . . oh wait, that’s too sexist. Maybe she was “high maintenance” then? . . . no, that’s apparently sexist too? OK, she was just ‘difficult’. Nope, only women seem to get labeled ‘difficult’. That’s out of bounds as well. No matter what you call it, big organizations don’t want to frickin’ deal with Kathleen Battle because it simply ain’t worth it. Call it what you will.

  • La di da says:

    There’s an article in the New Yorker about Yuja, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/05/yuja-wang-and-the-art-of-performance which may shed light on the issue of ‘ high maintenance’. It also said she dismissed her long suffering agent before this one on a whim because the diva felt like a change, only to find to her dismay ‘ collecting dry cleaning’ wasnt standard service provided by music agents.

  • Nickthefirst says:

    “High maintenance”? How about HIGH QUALITY?! And look who Mark is left with? Second, Third rate conductors. May be Newbanks is a “high maintenance”? He sure is!