Prof. Graffman & Lang Lang & DB, America

(Revised on February 11, 2008)  
Originaly written on Feb. 20, 2007 (Part1) Dear New York Folks,

This is Jiwon.

I am very tired. Can’t make separate writings about…

Story 5: Barenboim (Not finished…)

My Request No. 6 to Barenboim

On the problems facing musical education in America:

My Utopia

There was a story, which I finished a long time ago. As you expect, it was about Lang Lang. Now that http://www.langlang.com/ is closed and Lang Lang Blog seems to serve his Chinese Fan-Club only, I feel no need to make it long. Unlike other Barenboim’s pigs and monkeys, whose interviews are full of fucking lies, Lang Lang was honest. Why do you think so?

Professor Graffman did a terrific job, joining countless interviews with bla-bla-bla… then calls all his friends to grumble bla-bla-bla… behind the scene. Well, not exactly behind the scene. Ho-Ho-Ho (^.*) Besides, I am just surprised at the fact that Bashkirova failed to put this Chinese fame into her Bashkirov-Salon in Spain. If she did, it would have been a real fun to observe this Muzak pianist developing his tonemaking. Imagine Lang Lang plays just like Bashkirova. With a huge repertoire already kept in his brain, indeed. What would have happened to his Chinese fan-club? Real curious.

If you devote just a tiny bit of your time, you can find numbers of fun stuffs depicting this Muzak pianist. I just dropped my jaw when I heard Barenboim launch a campaign against Lang Lang’s pianism in his Reith lecture. Then I lost my jaw when I heard Barenboim bring this Muzak magician to the orchestra, which he considers as the best among his instruments. Where can I find my missing jaw? In Jerusalem?

Whatever it is… whether Lang Lang rates Barenboim as a career-feeder or not, it should be none of my business.

This is what matters:

China is a huge country, which golden market is also known for a headquarters of countless talents. I want to conquer this unlimited market with real pianists (plural!) born in China. Meanwhile, if the situation made Lang Lang possible, there would be another Lang Lang. How many years does one need to see younger, better-looking classical-idol? One has to be aware of it, and it is very dangerous for a maestro, who should always be armed with the CEO’s mind, to enjoy a so-called friendship with one particular musician, unless he/she proves Furtwangler’s imagination. Hence, I am waiting until his late 20s, during which he will still receive the same reviews as he is receiving now. Then, bye-bye Lang Lang. Perhaps, this farewell party will be given sooner, if the Chinese real talents (plural!) hit my eyes. Even if Lang Lang proves a real musician, I never want to steal anything from Bashkirova’s jewel-box. I know how much Lang Lang enjoyed his time at Bashkirova’s Berlin home and why he bought his shelter in her neighborhood. Since his fan-club trumpeted it very loud, I must know it.

Now, here is my real problem with Barenboim’s relationship with Lang Lang: I think it was year ago when I read this; that pianist Barenboim particularly appreciates Lang Lang’s talent to elicit a specific sound from the piano, and then he looks at Lang Lang’s fingers with green eyes. Which is exactly opposite to Furtwangler’s favorite tone making. No wonder the conductor Barenboim ends up his directorship with a coarse/ugly orchestra sound…

Since when was http://www.langlang.com/ closed and why? When I first finished my draft months ago, I wanted to hear his answer to his fan’s critical query. Lang Lang is very active at taking care of his fan-club. Then what has been his favorite answer to this kind of curiosity? Everybody has ears and they hear what they hear. I’m pretty sure that his fan would question Lang’s musicianship if he answered that Barenboim was his mentor and he learned everything from his music, as he interviewed elsewhere:

http://www.langlang.com/ Cookie (05.06.2005): I have heard Lang Lang playing Tchaikovsky 1 several times, but just feel that the version in this recording is not that “Lang Lang style”. In this recording, of course still, his techniques and expression are excellent. Maybe that’s under Mr Barenboim’s baton, the first mov’t is a bit slow, not flow enough and it seems to me that is not truely what Lang Lang’s heart feels. By the way, it gives a very grand and maestoso mood which is also very appropriate for the piece. Well, it is common to have the conductor and pianist different in the understanding and they have to compromise with minimum respect to each other’s opinion at the end. Anyway, Medelssohn 1 is absolutely enjoyable and this is the best version I’ve ever heard!

JIWON: Then, he’d rather be careful about his future interviews, for his big mouth is getting funnier and funnier… IMHO, Lang should thank his Chinese teacher for pushing him into mastering his huge repertoire. I am still thinking. Had he learned the quality of music, would he have made such a sensational debut like this, dubbed as a magician?

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/magazine/daily/14364830.htm (Apr. 18, 2006)

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/arts/story.html?id=0b43b539-23e6-40a4-b383-7ad840c4d56a&k=12634 (May 16, 2006)

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/living/music/s_456143.html (June 1, 2006)

JIWON: 

Again,

I have no business with this boy, whether it is hatred or respect. Honestly speaking, I envy Lang Lang; his quantity, his technique, his energy to memorize a huge repertoire. I just don’t want to waste my money and time to listen to this Muzak pianism, for only 24 hours a day are given to me. Sorry… He is talented in what he shows up, and it makes him able to earn enough money. By the time his career shrinks, there would be already enough money in his life to start his business, in which he has a real talent. So… why worry?

If Barenboim really wants to train this circus boy, what do you think is the best idea for this “sincere” Chinese youngster? To dig out other Chinese pianists (plural!), who possess a real talent. Then fire Lang Lang’s heart! He will confine himself in his room and practice his huge repertoire again till he masters all his quality. Am I wrong?

To those who would think I am just sneering down Mr. Lang after he joined Barenboim circle… sorry about this. I am who I am, and I can never praise the musicians, whose strength lies in their excess techniques. I grew up in a competitive society, and I used to lose my nerve in front of those who boast wonderful techniques such as invisible fingerings or fast tonguing, which I could never achieve. I could overcome this timid feeling after I analyzed my ability and realized that some techniques are impossible for my wishful sound to get, while some techniques really need my hard working. Some techniques, which are impossible to achieve in a rehearsal room, are easy on the stage, BTW.

Lang Lang is a piano man, so it may be OK. But in case of wind instruments, excessive techniques often function as a cancer in an ensemble situation. They kill the real talents sitting around them. I can not accept them. Sorry.

(Revised on February 11, 2008)

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0207/p01s04-woap.html (February 7, 2008) China’s Lang Lang hopes to snap up a Grammy

Proud of his pizazz: Lang Lang is unrepentant. “This is who I am,” he says simply. “I started playing like that when I was a kid. That’s my way, my signature, and I’m very proud of it.” Gary Graffman, the great American pianist who was Lang Lang’s teacher at the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia, says that his former student’s physicality “is disturbing. I would go round behind him and hold his shoulders, so that he wouldn’t move around so much,” he recalls. “But when you closed your eyes, the music was there.” (…) And the world’s top conductors love to work with him: once every two months, for example, Lang Lang goes into retreat for a week with Daniel Barenboim, who lives in Berlin.

JIWON: Prof. Graffman now wants to praise Lang Lang… Things have always been like this. If Lang Lang is so proud of his trademark, why does he need a musical advice from Barenboim? I’m so sick of this situation.

(Back on February 20, 2007)

But then,

Why did I want to keep this story until the end of my writing?

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/magazine/daily/14423437.htm Or

http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/entertainment/14373241.htm (Not original, though) Retiring director Gary Graffman: We were very talented, too, but some of the students now can learn in two weeks what we were spending two months on. Now, in Asia, it seems to me that every kid has to excel in something, whether it’s piano or violin or tennis or science. They are pushed by their parents, but pushed in a nice way. They are enjoying what they are doing in most cases, and their friends are doing the same. The education system, that is one of the problems in this country. We [recently] had 80-something pianists audition, 14 in the finals, and not one of them was an American citizen. When I was a student at the age of seven, 70 years ago, we had 18 or 20 pianists and two of them were black. We had absolutely no interest in doing anything to help black students but they happened to play better than the others. So we are totally blind in this. Inside of me, I am happy when I see a black student, but nothing special is done for them. The caliber of students… Cole [the Curtis cello professor] said 15 years ago that the kids now who come in are on a higher level than the one who used to graduate.

JIWON:

While searching for information about Lang Lang, I read many interviews by Professor Graffman. I can’t say that I agree with all his opinions, especially regarding his lesson from Horowitz and the American education system compared to Asian one. It’s very true that Asian students are pushed in a nice way. But they usually feel no need to be armed by professionalism when they go to the Curtis, while American students are keen at planning their financial future while young. When they see no hope in their future, it is natural for the American students not to start. Korean music society is a heaven for foreigner professors and the BPO, yet it is a hell for the local professional musicians and the ex-BPO members, still providing no concept of professional stage/audience. When the students here enter the Curtis, they hardly know that the practical life of the western professional musicians in these days is close to the poverty level. I know they are technically excellent, but I still fail to find one to bring to the professional stage, because what I want to hear from their music is specific air, without which they are destined to fail some time later after their graduation. IMHO, judging the level of Korean student should start only after their joining the professional world, and teaching some of them at the Curtis, which receives a fund from the government and is required to produce professional musicians to serve the country, is a waste of time. 10 years later after their graduation/marriage, their practical life will be found in their birthplace and their skill, knowledge, and their desire will be quite below the ordinary music lovers, who are still willing to dedicate a portion of their time/money to the professional world of music. I know them best, because I was one of them, and then I would feel no need to pursue this kind of professionalism if given another chance of musician’s life in this country. Should I write more specific details? Once he understands what I mean, I understand most of his words.  

One day, the American music school received an order from Someone-You-Know that they should make me give up so that I should walk out of their country on my own feet with no evidence of my academic achievement. It happened couple of times in two cities, and that day was the first among them. Some hassled me with their hilarious face. Some did it with burning flames in their greedy eyes. Some did it with their uncomfortable face, and I still remember one black woman. How can I forget her beautiful, but frustrated eyes, who was forced to order me something?

On the problems facing musical education in America:

1. A woman had asked about the problems facing musical education in America…

2. A questioner who observed that young musicians today are more technically proficient than their counterparts fifty years ago…

3. Do you think growing up and wanting to be a musician and pursue a career as a musician is a good job choice?
4. I have a question er related to all the No.3 of the world. And I’ve talked to many professors at American Conservatories and I asked them, you know, they are turning out so many students today, there’s obviously not gainful employment going to be available for all of them, they all aren’t going to be able to win er jobs at the Chicago Symphony, and what… so why do they keep on teaching all of these students? And the answer that I’ve always gotten is that the diligence and work ethic that they hopefully have instilled in them will serve them well if they decide to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, whatever. Do you see this as symptomatic of the cheapening of er classical music in this society, that it could be used as a tool to help somebody do something else?
 

JIWON:

I’ve found these similar questions several times from either Barenboim’s fan-club or American forums elsewhere. So, I think it is a waste of time to write Barenboim’s naïve answers. The fact is that Barenboim is not the only one believing that there is something wrong with the education system in America. However, what really made the entire situation of today? Simply, classical music in those days was better entertainment than other art forms and the kids in those days had no choice but to listen to the classical radio and go to the concerts. It was OK with them, of course, and they grew up and became devoted parents, who could no more ask their kids to enjoy classical music. So, is it their fault?

Nowadays, the classical music is boring. It sounds dull. It sounds ugly. They even don’t look good. Paying for all those old-fashioned black and white? Life is too short to enjoy all kinds of entertainment around us. But I don’t agree with those who believe that there is no classical music in American schools. I don’t think so.

Now, it’s time to contact:

Yigal B. Caspi, Ambassador of Israel, Ambassador’s Office: ambas-sec@seoul.mfa.gov.il

Besides my responsibility to take care of my kids, it took so long to finish my work for one reason. I still suffer from stage fright, and I have no idea about what I should do in his office. Two weeks later, I will send my mail to Ambassador of Israel and ask him to tell me; about who I am, and what I should do to prepare my reasonable future.

In case I am a nut, he will write the fact in his answer. Then, I still need my portion of money. What would I have to do? I hope him to answer this one, too.

In case I receive what I want, I still need to check Meier’s Barenboim-plan, and then I will decide my clear future. I will let you know. Then I will finish the rest of my writings, which are already in my draft. Different situation will require different editing. I am now just too tired, and not quite healthy.

Let’s finish today’s work:

Has Barenboim felt lonely since du Pre’s death?

Has Barenboim felt lonely since Said’s funeral?

The world is full of human beings and friends are everywhere:

—-

Sincerely yours,

Jiwon

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