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Is Lang Lang toeing party line on Japan?

We hear from Tokyo that Lang Lang has cancelled five recitals amid suspicions that he is obeying instructions from Beijing to isolate Japan in the cultural sphere. Tickets to his concerts, on  January 16 18, 20, 22, 24, were priced from $110-$170.

Concertgoers were informed that the pianist is unwell. However, he was pictured in Beijing on Saturday (on the weibo microwebsite) at theHan Meilin art gallery. And he’s due to play in Cannes today.

lang lang art


Yundi Li, who also cancelled Japan, told his fans that he was doing so under political pressure over the islands dispute between the two countries. Time for Lang Lang to come clean.

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  1. another orchestra musician says:

    Do avoid judging these musicians too harshly. They may have legitimate fears of reprisal, exercised not against themselves, but against friends and family members, in China.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      You make a valid point. However, Yundi Li appears to have been candid and I wonder how Yuja Wang would react in a similar situation? (I sense that she is a freer, more independent spirit unlikely to follow the party line). I’m sure that Norman will keep us posted as this develops because I don’t believe we have all the facts yet.

  2. Martin Locher says:

    “he was pictured in Beijing on Saturday”

    The 26th? That would have been after the cancelled Japan concerts.

  3. If this is indeed true, it is truly a shame. One the worst crimes a government can commit is barring cultural exchange, and trying to scam arts and expression with oversight.

  4. I certainly would not judge him even if he is toeing a party line. After all, Japan doesn’t have a great record on human rights historically.

  5. I don’t think you could expect more from Lang Lang given the way he plays most works.

  6. (Please post this entry, it includes a grammatic correction.)

    It has always been conspicuously obvious that Lang Lang is a political instrument of Chinese policy. His (that is, China’s) success is evidence that a general amnesia prevails in most societies today – if the Soviets had had a similar character he would have been decried from the rafters.

    China’s efforts with Lang Lang are more course and crude that the Soviets’ ever were (he plays Chopin miniatures for crowds of 100,000; he plays the committee-composed Yellow River Concerto – at least the Soviets did not think the concept of the Soviet applied to artistic creation), yet its effort is far more successful.

    That is to say, the Chinese have a better sense of what will be accepted in the West than the Russians did, and this is in part because of the mistaken belief which the public holds that these issues are settled since the Cold War is supposedly over.

    The Soviet effort to deceive the West was sly (making “Shostakovich” a cabal of “Orchestra” [do the math]; programming Soviet works in the belief they should be promoted due to supposed persecution – a maneuver by which the Americans listened to Soviet works but effectively persecuted their own; exporting super-conservatives like the dancer Romanov who then sold Socialist Realist choreography and said it was a new thing). Up to the 1980s it was possible for some people in the pipeline to see what what happening. But now the Chinese effort generally has the support of the critical press. That is to say, the Chinese are succeeding with their political agenda in a manner the Soviets never did. It is just considered in bad form to decry the “Emperor’s New Clothes.” Any such message is swiftly repudiated.

    It is an illusion to believe we’re out of the Cold War, at least as far as the arts are concerned.

    More musicians should read Boris Schwartz’s book on Soviet music, they would then realize that the present situation is not what it seems. Many of the agendas the Soviets worked for have been realized in areas that are still unsuspected – including: American programming; what I call “Hollywood Realism,” a residue of Socialist Realism; and the Chinese blockbuster approach. Minimalism, and much online discourse, is just the Soviet “non-conflict” agenda, with even, in the case the Minimalism/Non-Conflict syzygy, one of the principals, Arvo Part, being still in the field.

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