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China’s piano war: Yundi Li denies he is Lang Lang’s adversary

In a soft-soap interview for Jing Daily, China’s second most-famous pianist has firmly denied any bad feeling between him and the nation’s number one:

This was created by the media. We’re both classical pianists, the same age, from the East, so it was an easy target to pit me against [him] for headlines. Nothing to do with me, no hostility between us whatsoever. I tell my fans to never be jealous — be a good man and work hard, as it’s what I believe. People just assume what they’ve read is true. The reality is I’d shake his hand if he was right here.

Let Slipped Disc inject a note of reality here. Lang Lang, while on Deutsche Grammophon, had his representatives insist that Yundi was dropped from the label. When Yundi rejoined DG, after Lang Lang’s departure, he insisted that the  press statement issued in china should declare that he was being paid more than Lang Lang’s $3 million Sony handshake.

These are not rumours. They are verified incidents. The hostility between them was part of every negotiation.

If Yundi now wants to be best friends with Lang Lang that’s great, but he cannot expect us to believe that the hostility between them was fabricated by media. Unless he wishes to live on a fantasy island where no-one will ever disturb him.



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  1. I think he is just being not aggressive. That’s his personality, being humble and low-key. Wouldn’t it be more inappropriate to say ” yeah, we do have hostility with each other. You know how badly Lang Lang wants to defeat me in every aspect.” ?

    • Agree. Yundi is not claiming friendship with Lang Lang; he is just trying to stay from tthis kind of unpleasant confrontation.

    • I can’t agree with you more.
      As a so-called fan of Yundi, I really don’t want to see his names in any media recently.
      Admitting the hostility has nothing to do with the relaxed relationship. So does avoiding the questions.
      As for another question, the false rumors have brought many troubles to Yundi and I don’t think he wants that. But where do these false rumors come from?
      It is definitely reasonable for people to guess the source may be from some of his rivals. Because these rumors are well-organized and ever-lasting (Mr. Lebrecht, if you pay careful attention to the Chinese media, you will find the rumors are usually spread from the same reports, which may eventually develop into several versions).
      Some media has also played dishonorable roles in the process.

  2. lilyforest says:

    When did he tell his fans to never be jealous?

    • Every time when Yundi was asked about LL he always gave positive comments. In his weibo Yundi said LL did a nice job at Spring Festival Gala. I think this is enough for his fans to understand his attitude, if they are not as stupid as you.

    • In the interview of JingDaily.

  3. Yeah, but it sounds like LL primarily initiated the antagonism. Can hardly blame Y for retorting… Would rather listen to Yundi any day.

  4. I don’t see these things as being mutually exclusive. Even the very best of friends like to rib each other from time to time…
    Just because Yundi may have insisted on a press release designed to look as though he was doing better than someone else doesn’t mean he is showing hostility – merely desirous of a good headline and a nice PR stunt (or a good way of negotiating a higher fee!). Lang Lang in turn may like and even admire Yundi, who knows, merely insisting on a dropping from his label to avoid unnecessary competition. it doesn’t mean he dislikes Yundi, his playing, or his personality, either.
    People will read in to all this what they will; by and large, anything that sounds over the top, ascribes feelings not really exhibited by participants, and tries to use the same to draw salacious conclusions is likely to be erroneous.

  5. I believe in Yundi said Lang Lang is not his adversary. Because I have watched a interview that he said every classical music lovers have different flovers and people need to try it,then they can choose which flover is they more love. Something I like,but my friend will not like. This is depend on individual’s fancy.

    So I think he is honest and it is nor a soft soap interview

  6. musician says:

    Yawn…..Who cares. I’d rather listen to Yuja Wang or Lise de la Salle!

  7. Charlene says:

    Maybe he does wish to live on a fantasy island, so that he could keep peace of mind and focus on music.

  8. it’s pretty obvious who cares more about the so-called No. 1. Langlang kept saying how great he is and how unbeatable he is while Yundi insists that music is like food, and people have their own preference. Yundi also admired Langlang publicly while Langlang said “Don’t mention Yundi because he is not at my level yet.”

  9. Josephine says:

    Why is Yundi Li a popular topic now ?

  10. Thanks Mr. Lebrecht,

    I admire you always standing in a neutral position, and I really appreciate you speaking out for the industry. I hope your words are well understood, someone needs to step out to end the soap drama, and everyone go back to their own business. Music fans expect good performance than any other things, sometimes I simply want to beg Yundi’s team not to destroy him and the entire environment of China’s classical music. So please, everyone, calm down and listen to people’s advice for at least once. No more lies, no more rumors, no more pollution.

    Many thanks, please take care,


    • I am just interested in some of your points.
      Basically, I agree with you on that the whole drama-like affairs have definitely done bad to the industry, particularly in China.
      But I am kind of wondering about the part “beg Yundi’s team not to destroy him and the entire environment of China’s classical music”.
      I don’t think Yundi’s team will spread rumors talking all the bad news about himself. So here comes another question: who is always trying to defame the person?
      But I do agree there is something wrong with the promotion strategy used by Yundi’s team.
      Maybe just as it says, no news is the best news.
      Hopefully, I can avoid seeing his names in any media recently.

  11. Heather says:

    I believe Yundi is always dreaming of a fantasy island where there is only music surrounding him.

  12. When did he ever tell his fans not to be jealous? His fans are the most fanatic and twisted fans I’ve ever seen.
    Obviously, our charming prince of piano now targets a particular group of people and tries his best to be the next GREATEST POP-STAR. Well, good luck!
    Rumour has it that he gave up his study in Hanover Germany. Anyway, diploma is not so important to a promising pop-star.

  13. I don’t remember when did Yundi mention that he was being paid more than Lang Lang’s $3 million Sony handshake. He just answered the question about the contract price with DG last May and he gave out the number of zeros then like $X,000,000 which is as same level as Lang Lang’s $3,000,000, but not the first number. So nobody knows who was paid more. He tried his best to be nice to lang lang and kept a peace between them. However, Lang Lang seems hold an opposite attitude.

    • Exactly! I only remembered that he mentioned it was an 8-digit number calculated with RMB, in replying to a contract price question raised by a journalist on that closing date. The entire conversation has nothing to do with Lang Lang. I feel that he always tries to avoid mentioning money in public.

  14. Yundi left DG in 2008. In 2008 Lang Lang was 26 year old classical music new comer, kind of controversial among some critics. Yundi Li is another 26 year old classical music new comer, not controversial among critics. They were basically of the same weights among many promising young musicians at that time. Some world classical music giants, such as deceased Karajan, might have the powers to make DG to let-go some other musicians. I honestly don’t believe that Lang Lang could have the power at that time, whether he liked Yundi or not.

  15. Iphigénie says:

    In my opinion, Yundi can’t know more clearly Lang Lang’s hostility towards him, which appears even quite evident for us “outsiders”, for instance in LL’s interviews concerning the comparison among these contemporary pianists. What I admire Yundi the most is that he never consider that of importance.

    Unlike what you said in this blog, we didn’t even know that he’d got more paid than LL on rejoining DG. At that time what was spreaded over the media was all about Yundi’s getting fired because of scandals of his private life. Yundi never shows intention of such comparison of fame or what. We easily feel it from the peace and nice melodies in his playing.

    Sorry to disturb you, but I just want to express my true feelings.

  16. Cindy Huang says:

    In Yundi’s early years, he just focused on his music but didn’t know how to deal with the media. In an activity which his company asked him to support a pop star, he told the compere that he didn’t even know why he was there. But now, he can speak decently and nicely enough although he may not want to answer those questions.

    Yundi just used a Chinese way to deal with the question which didn’t surprised me – keep the surface calm although everyone knows there are undercurrents flowing beneath it.

    • I couldn’t agree more. As Mr. Lebrecht has said, it’s indeed a soft-soap interview. Yundi is no longer a dull boy as he was in early years. In these years, he become more and more smooth and skillful when face the media. He just tried to avoid the core conflict and keep his perfect image in front of people. Never say something with fierce words. Maybe be peaceful and friendly is a part of his nature.

      BUT, I had to say that, Yundi dealt with it with a typical Chinese Style,which refers to no head-on confrontation, always with peace in surface and scarcely face the real problem directly.

      In this information age, everything goes very fast. Rumors is a monster. Yundi should be more clever when face such problem. He is a man in society not a man in a uninhabited island.

  17. Dear Norman, I believe you know that there are lots of rumors attacking YUNDI among Chinese media including social media such as (Chinese twitter) and this blog has been interpreted as one of the evidence that YUNDI was purposely telling a lie about his new contract with DG is more than Lang Lang’s one with Sony at 3million. I do not know the details but don’t see any implication indicating the statement is a lie. Could you please give a clarification about that? That will help more people get the fact. Thanks!

  18. R. Spencer says:

    Yundi has to accept this since Lang Lang’s team is overwhelming in China. Recently, more than 200 media in China said “you” pointed out in your blog that Yundi has divorced with his “politically powerful” wife. Definitely, those media know this is not the truth, but the news has misled many people. Yundi has yet made no comment to those rumors. Some music lovers know there is somebody who “makes up” those rumors, but they can do nothing. Lang Lang is aggressive and powerful. Peace is important for a pianist like Yundi, to live a humble life is the way of survival. Of course, there is hostility between them, although I insist that Yundi really want to avoid this.

    • sapphire says:

      i cannot agree more. China’s media are constantly making up different rumors about yundi li. obviously.yundi li is innocent. hope these things won’t affect him.

  19. Branimir says:

    What worries me much more is that both of them recently cancelled their concerts in Japan for the political interests of their country. So much different behaviour and attitude regarding music-politic relation than in the case of Van Cliburn, USA and USSR back in 1958. Are we are living in a time much worse than that of the Cold War?

    • As always, the government poses great pressure on music and arts, relating everything to politics. Meanwhile, the public has hostility towards Japan as well. Musicians and artists are suffering pressure from both sides, thus we can’t blame them too much. In such case, the attitude and behavior of pianists don’t count.

  20. let the music do the talking.

  21. Dear Norman, because of the in-coordination of the news in China and abroad, and many deliberate distorted reports, it is very hard for us to know the real condition of the two pianists.

    I didn’t hear that Yundi ” insisted that the press statement issued in china should declare that he was being paid more than Lang Lang’s $3 million Sony handshake”. Could you please let us see the evidence? I believe you are a fair person, please share with us what you know. I am a new fan of him. The more I get in-depth knowledge of him, the more I confirm that he is a real good man.

    Mass media in China has suspect that Yundi Li didn’ t graduate from Hannover Universität, that he got married and divorced and then he actually is a gay! These are old “news”, and they just keep reporting the same thing, without any evidence. Shame on them!

    This man, that he presents to me, is warm-hearted . He is willing to help people. He has done many charities and just keep silent about them. He is out of the public eye for a long time to search for the pure music world. Yundi is a very simple man, who likes eating delicious food and reading books. He searches his name to see what people are talking about him, and sometimes press the “like” button below. These are all I find in his Blog ( And his music tells me he is what he presents.

    After the “Magic” event, he became less vivacious in Blog than before, when he shares many pictures of himself or his dinner. Yundi’s “good friend” removed him from his fan list in 4:00 am, several days after the event. Isn’t it hurt? Fans hope he don’t get influenced. When some people with malevolence entered his blog and left harsh word in the comment column, we just keep talking to Yundi to brush their comments to the bottom.

    Yundi has been asked many time about Langlang, and he always responses with a bright smile. I know little about Langlang. Here I ‘m not adequate to comment on him.

    Actually Yundi is not the only one who experiences such a bad situation.

  22. As far as I know, Yundi Li has never shown hostility to Lang Lang, even though Lang Lang has shown his disrespect for Li more than once. I think Li is really a true musician who would like to devote all his life to classical music, while Lang just regards music as a tool to make money.

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