In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona

In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona

By Evan Mitchell, 07 January 2014, photo © Philip Glaser
via Bachtrack, the largest classical event finder online

Every age has its own tastes, its own aesthetic lines drawn in the sand. Since the 19th century, with its seminal guardians of musical decorum (Clara Schumann chief among them), pianists and their critics have debated the role of stage persona. Most outspoken are those who believe that a quiet, undemonstrative approach to the instrument – à la Arthur Rubinstein – best reflects a serious commitment to earnest musicianship. The corollary is presumed true as well: that excessive body movement or facial expressions can cheapen an interpretation or betray a lack of real understanding. Pianist Lang Lang, often insensitively derided as “Bang Bang”, is held in this case to be Public Enemy Number One. Our current notion of good taste is less extreme, and concedes that a bit of visual display can be acceptable and even beneficial, so long as it is a natural byproduct of a performer’s interpretation. [ . . . ]

All this is surprising to some? The entire ecology of a concert affects the experience of it for everyone in the audience. It begins with anticipation building up to buying tickets when one hears a concert has been scheduled. People speaking near one or waving their lighted phones around during the concert certainly affect it. Some would argue a musical performer’s demeanor and physical embodiment of the music which emanates through them is of no consequence? Between robotic artifice and rock concert flash bombs lie endless forms of visible expression.

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