01 Dec 2008

DGG Drops Chinese Pianist Yundi Li

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Benjamin Ivry addresses Deutsche Grammaphon’s decision to stop recording Yundi Li with splendid indignation.

The question is whether the classical-music market has narrowed to the point where only a Chinese Liberace or “Chopinzee” (to adopt the term that James Huneker used to describe the 1920s exhibitionistic keyboard antics of Vladimir de Pachmann) can survive. Is it possible for fine artistry to coexist at a time when dazzling, if empty, display is exalted? In the era of the ubiquitous Hollywood star pianist José Iturbi (1895-1980), audiences still flocked to see sober, unflashy pianists like Rudolf Serkin or Benno Moiseiwitsch, masterly musicians who would never be mistaken for pop performers.

Deutsche Grammophon’s dismissal of Yundi Li is only the latest in a series of cases where musical achievement does not equal a recording contract. About a decade ago, Sony Classical dismissed the supremely refined Taiwan-born violinist Cho-Liang Lin (b. 1960), according to Mr. Lin himself, because he was unwilling and/or unable to record the quasi-pop “crossover” works that have kept the cellist Yo-Yo Ma on the Billboard charts.

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3 Feedbacks on "DGG Drops Chinese Pianist Yundi Li"

Skookumchuk

The classical music recording business simply has to change in order to give the Yundi Lis of the world the chance to be heard. But the question is – how?



RAD

He is musically boring – a good conservatory student, but without personality. (Listen to his Liszt Sonata: many conservatory graduates can play it about as well. His Chopin Scherzi are blanks without musical or emotional meaning.) People are starting to realize this, and his albums don’t sell.



the innocent lam

I disagree with RAD. I think the thing is that Yundi is boring himself.. his personality doesn’t sell shows, and most people aren’t the type to only focus on the music, that’s why Lang Lang does so well nowadays.. he brings showmanship..

I also find it hard to willy-nilly say that Yundi’s recordings are complete blanks. No matter how bad you are, you still have emotion to fill in the ‘blanks’.



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