Friday, February 26, 2010
Mr. Soyer, the violinists Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley and the violist Michael Tree formed the Guarneri at Marlboro in 1964, and it became one of the premier quartets in the world. He retired in 2001, its only personnel change. One of his former students, Peter Wiley, took over. The quartet retired as a whole earlier this season. At its last New York concert, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. Soyer joined in to play Schubert’s String Quintet in C.
host, Randy Anderson
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has been awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest award for artistic achievement. The award will be presented by President Barack Obama at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, where Tilson Thomas will be recognized for his contributions to American culture.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to share the deep and ongoing tradition of classical music with all Americans,” said Tilson Thomas. “I receive this award with gratitude to President Obama, the National Endowment for the Arts and to my many musical colleagues throughout the country whose devotion makes all this possible. I especially want to thank the San Francisco Symphony and the New World Symphony families for our special collaborations over these many years.”
Michael Tilson Thomas is acclaimed as a conductor, composer and educator. Currently in his 15th season as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, he is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, the premier orchestral academy for gifted young musicians. With a background that includes grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America, and working relationships with legendary composers of the 20th century, such as Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, MTT’s wide ranging perspectives on music have won him respect and trust among musicians and audiences worldwide.
He conducts and has recorded musical works ranging from Bach, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven to Gershwin, Ives and Reich. The recordings of the complete Mahler symphony cycle by MTT and the San Francisco Symphony have been recognized with seven Grammys, including three this year for Symphony No. 8.
MTT’s commitment to music education is longstanding. He was Director of the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977, helped to create the Discovery Series with the London Symphony Orchestra and is currently creating the Keeping Score Project with the San Francisco Symphony. Keeping Score includes the nationally televised PBS series, radio programming, interactive websites and a K-12 education program, all designed to make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds. His Keeping Score radio series, The MTT Files, won a Peabody Award in 2008.
In 1987, he founded the New World Symphony (NWS) – an orchestral academy dedicated to the artistic, personal and professional development of outstanding young instrumentalists. There, in addition to a full season of master classes and concerts, he employs Internet2 technology to bring conductors, soloists and coaches from across the globe into virtual collaboration with NWS fellows. Hundreds of NWS alumni are working in 175 professional orchestras around the world. A new Frank Gehry-designed campus will open in Miami Beach in January, 2011.
MTT served as artistic director of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO), a 96-member ensemble selected from 3,000 video auditions created by musicians from 30 countries and all walks of life and the first orchestra auditioned entirely online. He conducted the YTSO in April 2009 at a Carnegie Hall concert, which received global coverage.
He has won ten Grammys for his recordings and is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. He has been named by Musical America as both “Musician of the Year” and “Conductor of the Year” and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
For more information, visit www.michaeltilsonthomas.com or www.facebook.com/michaeltilsonthomas
When not performing in opera houses around the world, soprano Renée Fleming has been known to dip a manicured toe into the waters of jazz, Broadway tunes, holiday music and film soundtracks ("The Lord of the Rings").
In what may be a first for the ubiquitous Grammy-winning opera star, Fleming is traveling way downtown in her new album, "Dark Hope," in which she performs pieces by indie-rock bands including Muse, Arcade Fire, Band of Horses and Death Cab For Cutie.
The album also includes songs by Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, The Mars Volta, Jefferson Airplane and Leonard Cohen.
"Dark Hope," which is being released by Decca, is scheduled to go on sale this spring. Amazon lists the release date as June 8.
Fleming worked with producer David Kahne on the project, but the idea for the album came from Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein (from the talent agency Q-Prime Management), who persuaded the opera star to take on the challenge.
Fleming has said that she tried to find a "stylistically authentic" way of performing the songs and that "singing in the lowest part of my voice was key to making this work."
The singer described making the album as "a wonderful learning curve, one reminiscent of my early days studying Mozart as a Juilliard student."
She also said her two daughters and sister performed as back-up singers on the album.
A number of famous opera stars have made detours to the pop world during their careers, including Luciano Pavarotti, who once partnered with the Spice Girls, and more recently, Nathan Gunn, who collaborated on an album with Billy Joel and other artists.
Fleming's most recent L.A. appearance was at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in December, when she performed a recital organized by Los Angeles Opera.
"Dark Hope" contains 11 tracks:
No One's Gonna Love You (Band of Horses)
Oxygen (Willy Mason)
Today (Jefferson Airplane)
Intervention (Arcade Fire)
With Twilight as My Guide (The Mars Volta)
Mad World (Tears for Fears)
In Your Eyes (Peter Gabriel)
Stepping Stone (Duffy)
Soul Meets Body (Death Cab For Cutie)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The drama of love, murder, and hope on Catfish Row springs to teeming life in a dazzling 75th Anniversary tour of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” coming to San Antonio on March 5, 2010 in a brand new production with riveting choreography and glamorous costumes.
Approved by the Gershwin Estate, produced by veteran opera impresario Michael Capasso, General Manager of New York’s Dicapo Opera Theatre, in association with noted producer Willette Murphy Klausner, (“Three Mo’ Tenors”). “Porgy” is directed by the brilliant African American Charles Randolph Wright (“Mama I Want To Sing”). Don’t miss this celebration of America’s most beloved opera, with a stellar all African-American cast of sensational performers.
Based on the play, Porgy, written by Dubose and Dorothy Heyward, Porgy and Bess is a vivid storytelling of Porgy, a crippled man living in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1920’s, as he attempts to save his love, Bess, from possessive lovers and dangerous drug dealers.
Considered a daring and artistic visionary at its premiere in 1935, Porgy and Bess is now part of a standard opera repertoire, and is performed all over the world.
Tickets can be purchased at all TICKETMASTER locations or by calling 1-800-982-2787. For more information call the San Antonio Opera box office at 210-225-5972 or visit www.saopera.com.
The performance takes place Friday, March 5, 2010, 7:30 p.m.
The Municipal Auditorium
100 Auditorium Circle
San Antonio, Texas 78205
In his 40th anniversary season, Maestro Levine, who has conducted nearly 2,500 performances at the Met, more than any conductor in the company’s 126-year history, will conduct six operas across a range of repertory. The Met will celebrate the music director’s extraordinary, record-breaking Met career with historical DVD and CD releases of his performances, as well as a new documentary film about the maestro by award-winning director Susan Froemke. Levine will launch the 2010-11 season on Monday, September 27, 2010, with a gala performance of Das Rheingold. The first installment of the new Ring cycle by Robert Lepage, the opera will star Bryn Terfel in his first appearance as Wotan in the U.S. and Stephanie Blythe as Fricka. The new staging of Die Walküre will open on April 22, 2011, with Levine conducting a cast that includes Deborah Voigt in her first Met Brünnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek in her company debut as Sieglinde, Blythe as Fricka, Jonas Kaufmann in his first Siegmund at the Met, and Terfel as Wotan. Levine will also lead revivals of Don Pasquale, Il Trovatore, Simon Boccanegra, and Wozzeck. On the actual date of his anniversary, June 5, he will conduct Don Carlo with the company on tour in Japan.
Acclaimed German director Peter Stein will make his Met debut with a new production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, opening October 11, conducted by Valery Gergiev. René Pape will sing the monumental title role for the first time at the Met. Verdi’s Don Carlo will premiere on November 22 in a new production by Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of London’s National Theatre, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The co-production, which opened at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in 2008, will star Roberto Alagna in the title role, Marina Poplavskaya as Elisabeth de Valois, Simon Keenlyside as Rodrigo, and Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip. The new La Traviata will premiere at a New Year’s Eve gala performance of Willy Decker’s hit production from the 2005 Salzburg Festival that has been modified and rebuilt for the Met, with Marina Poplavskaya as Violetta and Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo; Gianandrea Noseda conducts.
Celebrated composer John Adams will make his Met debut on the podium on February 2, conducting the Met premiere of his 1987 opera Nixon in China, in a production by Peter Sellars from the English National Opera. Rossini’s rarely heard comic opera Le Comte Ory will have its Met premiere on March 24, featuring Juan Diego Flórez in the title role, Diana Damrau as Countess Adèle, and Joyce DiDonato as Isolier, in Bartlett Sher’s new production.
Gelb said, “Maestro Levine’s 40th anniversary and the beginning of a new Ring cycle, both extraordinary events in the life of this great company, will inspire us to artistic heights and hopefully stimulate the public to fill our seats.”
Levine said, “After forty years of working with this great company, I am still excited by the prospect of a new season that introduces new repertory, new artists, and new challenges. And I couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate my anniversary than beginning a new Ring cycle.”
The Met’s conducting roster will feature a number of notable debut artists in the 2010-11 season, including Simon Rattle, who leads Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, and William Christie, who conducts Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, Edward Gardner, Patrick Fournillier, Erik Nielsen, and Paolo Arrivabeni also make their Met debuts leading important revivals during the season. Maestros returning to conduct revivals will include: Marco Armiliato, Andrew Davis, Plácido Domingo, Riccardo Frizza, Fabio Luisi, Nicola Luisotti, Andris Nelsons, and Patrick Summers.
Highly acclaimed recent portrayals by some of the Met’s most popular stars will be reprised this season. Star soprano Renée Fleming performs the virtuoso title role of Rossini’s Armida, then switches gears to sing the Countess in Richard Strauss’s Capriccio (her first complete account of the role, though she sang the final scene at the Opening Night Gala in 2008). Susan Graham returns to the title role of Iphigénie en Tauride with Plácido Domingo repeating his noble Oreste. Natalie Dessay once again offers her brilliant portrayal of the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, and Elīna Garanča gives the audience another chance to witness her magnetic Carmen. Anna Netrebko reprises her tour-de-force Norina in Don Pasquale, and Karita Mattila takes the stage as Lisa in The Queen of Spades, a role she has not sung here since 1995. Angela Gheorghiu comes back for Gounod’s Juliette for the first time since 1998, and Marcelo Álvarez again sings the title role in Il Trovatore.
Many of the world’s most prominent singers will be taking on roles they have never sung at the Met before, including Piotr Beczała as Roméo, Joseph Calleja as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Danielle de Niese as Despina in Così fan tutte, Joyce DiDonato as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Giuseppe Filianoti in the title role of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, opposite Olga Borodina as Giulietta and Ildar Abdrazakov as the Four Villains. Also in Met role debuts, Dmitri Hvorostovsky will sing the title role and Barbara Frittoli is Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Magdalena Kožená is Mélisande, Peter Mattei is Yeletsky and Dolora Zajick is the Countess in The Queen of Spades. Patricia Racette sings Leonora in Il Trovatore, Sondra Radvanovsky and Violeta Urmana share the title role of Tosca, Deborah Voigt sings the title role and Marcello Giordani is Dick Johnson in La Fanciulla del West, and Waltraud Meier is Marie and Matthias Goerne is the title role in Wozzeck.
You might have a chance to win passes next fall for these:
The Met: Live in HD 2010-11 Series
The 2010-11 season of The Met: Live in HD will feature 11 transmissions, beginning on October 9 with Das Rheingold and continuing with Boris Godunov (October 23), Don Pasquale (November 13), Don Carlo (December 11), La Fanciulla del West (January 8), Iphigénie en Tauride (February 26), Lucia di Lammermoor (March 19), Le Comte Ory (April 9), Capriccio (April 23), Il Trovatore (April 30), and Die Walküre (May 14).
The company’s enormously successful, Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series of live transmissions into movie theaters in 44 countries and more than 1000 theaters around the world has sold more than 1.8 million tickets so far during the 2009-10 season. With two transmissions remaining in the fourth season of the popular series (Hamlet on March 27 and Armida on May 1) attendance is expected to exceed two million, effectively tripling the Met’s paying audience (approximately 800,000 people attend performances in the opera house in a Met season).
Monday, February 22, 2010
Learn more with Anne Schelleng and Marguerite McCormick along with emcee John Clare:
Enjoy a Hollywood Musical evening as the choirs present classics from Brigadoon and The Sound of Music, and a silent auction. Brent Watkins and friends will fill the air with the sounds of sweet jazz - an evening of fun all in support of The Children's Chorus of San Antonio.
Plácido Domingo is scheduled to have preventative surgery after experiencing physical discomfort and lower abdominal pain for more than a week during his recent appearances in Tokyo.
Domingo, 69, has flown to New York from Tokyo, where he has already undergone one procedure, according to his spokeswoman, Nancy Seltzer. She said that Domingo decided to fly to New York for a complete physical and that doctors have determined that the tenor needs to undergo "medically recommended preventive surgery."
She declined to be more specific about the nature of Domingo's health problems.
The surgery throws Domingo's future appearances this season into question.
Seltzer said Domingo would miss performances of "Tamerlano" in London that were scheduled to begin March 5.
She said that it was "hoped" that the tenor would be able to return to his performance schedule in six weeks. "Hopefully, he will be back even sooner," she said.
Domingo is scheduled to perform in "Simon Boccanegra" in Berlin on March 27 and at La Scala in Milan in April. He is also set to perform in "Die Walküre" as part of Los Angeles Opera's "Ring" cycle starting May 30.
"It is his intention to honor these commitments," Seltzer said. She added that Domingo's wife, Marta, and one of his sons were with him in New York.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Hear it all on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
In February , in celebration of Black History we’ll have two weeks that focus on Black Composers on Alternate Routes Fridays at 10pm . These programs air 02/12 and 02/19 . In addition music of Black Composers will be heard throughout the month .
In March in recognition of National Women’s History Month we will continue special programming of Women Composers from throughout the world . With emphasis on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries these broadcast will air 03/19 and 03/26 also on Alternate Routes at 10pm .
In observing the Easter Holiday’s in music we will present a show in three parts beginning with Easter Oratorio 03/24 ( Palm Sunday ) and continuing with the Ascension Cantatas 04/02 ( Good Friday ) and concluding 04/04 ( Easter Sunday ) with the Himmelfahrts- Oratorium in which the Evangelist narrates the blessing of the disciples , the departure and the ascent into Heaven .
Thanks for listening!
-Ron Moore, host & announcer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Interview from 10/2009:
Max Reiter, 1939-1950
Victor Alessandro, 1950-1976
François Huybrechts, 1978-1980
Lawrence Leighton Smith, 1980-1985
Zdeněk Mácal, 1988-1990
Christopher Wilkins, 1992-2000
Larry Rachleff, 2004-2008
Sebastian Lang-Lessing, 2010-
Sebastian Lang-Lessing is Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO). His performances have won praise from the international press: '[the] performance’s sophistication and sensuality comes from the pit’ (LA Times, 2007); ‘the orchestra sparkles and glows under the heated conducting of Sebastian Lang-Lessing. Viva Carmen!’ (Houston Press, 2006); ‘it was Lang-Lessing, in his company debut, who steered Tuesday’s opening to its greatest moments of success’ (San Francisco Times, 2005).
Awarded the Ferenc Fricsay Prize in Berlin at the age of 24, he subsequently took up a conducting post at the Hamburg State Opera, was appointed resident conductor at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and later Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy. Under his direction, the Opéra de Nancy was elevated o national status becoming the Opéra national de Lorraine.
His international career started at the Opéra Bastille de Paris, followed by engagements at Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Colorado Denver, Opéra de Bordeaux, Hamburg State Opera, and the Operahouses in Oslo, Stockholm and Capetown. Future guest engagements in 2010 include opera productions at the West Australian Opera, Opera Colorado in Denver and Capetown Opera.
The San Antonio Symphony's 71st season will begin October 2nd, 2010. KPAC will air Sebastian Lang-Lessing's performance of Schumann's 3rd Symphony "Rhenish" with the San Antonio Symphony on Friday, February 19th in the 10am hour, and will feature soloist Ewa Kupiec in Beethoven's Piano Concerto #5 "Emperor" with Lang-Lessing and the orchestra on Friday February 19th on KPAC & KTXI in the 2pm hour.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
The Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.
host Randy Anderson
Thursday, February 11, 2010
To attend this benefit concert, you may purchase tickets by going here:
If you are not able to attend, you can make a contribution to UNICEF's Emergency Haiti Fund:
Jack Fishman has recently shared that Lang Lang will be in San Antonio to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the San Antonio Symphony in January 2011.
Saariaho will be presented with the award at a concert on May 5, 2011 at the DR Concert Hall in Copenhagen, with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Storgårds. In addition, a Saariaho concert will be held on May 4 2010 at The Black Diamond in Copenhagen, with the Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen conducted by Pierre André Valade.
On receiving the award, Kaija Saariaho said: I am very happy to receive the prestigious Sonning Music Prize, and honoured to follow those prestigious predecessors. I am especially glad that this honour comes from a Nordic country, as I feel that my music is not there as much - except in Finland – compared to other European countries or North America.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Haydn: Symphony No. 94, "Surprise"
I love Haydn, because of his originality and his sense of fun.
His symphonies are often used simply as "fillers" in programmes, but they are so energetic and entertaining, as well as beautiful and expressive, that they deserve the highest respect and affection. I always look for any chance to include them. We have learnt a lot from the authentic performance specialists, and, instead of the old-fashioned heavy slow readings that I grew up with, we can now perform them with muscle and excitement. The joke of the "surprise" is well known, but this movement takes the simplest of themes (which also appears in his "Seasons") and constructs a wonderful set of variations of increasing complexity. However, for me, the most entertaining movement is the finale with its surprise twists of tonality and dynamics, and its high energy.
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
This wonderful concerto with its famous melody has long been a favourite of mine, but I have never conducted it before, so this is going to be a great pleasure for me. It is always difficult to balance a solo guitar with an orchestra, so my job will be very delicate, accompanying sensitively whilst maintaining the panache of the Spanish style, particularly in the outer movements. Our Cor Anglais player will enjoy his/her moment of glory with the superb solo in the slow movement.
Nielsen: Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable"
Nielsen is the greatest Danish composer and, as I am half Danish, I am proud to be bringing this masterpiece to you. I have already performed his Fifth and Sixth symphonies several times, and they are extremely original and powerful works. This Fourth symphony is a real powerhouse, with huge dramatic tension, which releases into lovely pastoral sections that refer to Danish folksong. In the final movement, Nielsen brings in a second set of timpani and the two players compete in a thrilling stereo battle which involves the whole orchestra. This is truly one of the most exciting finales in all music.
This characterful programme is a lovely balance between the smaller scale, more intimate first half, and the massive dramatic symphony which will leave us all, performers and audience alike, emotionally drained but thrilled. I couldn't have wished for a more exciting evening for my debut with this orchestra!
Boyle sat down to discuss her whirlwind success and her multi-platinum debut 'I Dreamed A Dream' (Columbia Records), which was the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 for six consecutive weeks, broke numerous Soundscan records, and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.
'I Dreamed A Dream' was recorded during the summer of 2009. Boyle first entered a recording studio in July in London, picking songs that resonated with her. The final results shocked both her and veteran producer Steve Mac with its beauty and musical impact. "It was important that I could feel everything I was singing," she says. The 12 track collection features Susan Boyle performing signature songs such as "I Dreamed A Dream", "Cry Me A River," as well as her haunting rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," Madonna's "You'll See," The Monkees' "Daydream Believer," and "Who I Was Born To Be."
Monday, February 8, 2010
This one mentioned Mozart AND Schubert:
Do you have a favorite commercial that uses Classical Music? or what piece of music do you think should be used for a commercial? Let us know in the comment section!
Friday, February 5, 2010
Do you have a favorite holiday? Doing something special for your sweetheart? Share it with us in the comments. Don't forget to make a request on the 13th for your sweetie with James Baker and Listener's Choice - and the ATOS Trio performs on 2/14 for the San Antonio Chamber Music Society!
The Piano, this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.
host, Randy Anderson
Thursday, February 4, 2010
The Boston event will feature Fidelity FutureStage 2009 competition winners AnJalique Perry (Roland Hayes School of Music) and Chris Middleton (Boston Latin Academy) performing with members of the Boston Pops for students in Boston and audiences via satellite in Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. At the Boston event, Keith Lockhart will announce the 2010 Fidelity FutureStage Music Competition which will give Boston public high school students the opportunity to perform with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall this May during the 2010 Boston Pops season.
Fidelity Investments created the Fidelity FutureStage program to support music and other arts education in local schools and communities. Today, working with some of world’s most recognized orchestras, Fidelity FutureStage provides unique learning experiences for students to explore and expand their interests in music, and build life skills that can use far beyond the classroom.
Here are Matt Zerweck and Lauren Magnus in a Martinu Madrigal:
Hear their interview on Classical Spotlight this afternoon at two pm (central) on KPAC & KTXI! We'll also have the Mid Texas Symphony and Nancy Zhou as a preview to their concert coming up Saturday night.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
One of cinema's all-time great composers is the subject of a massive new soundtrack box set -- at more than 19 hours of music, believed to be the biggest single-composer Hollywood film-score collection ever released.
"Miklos Rozsa Treasury (1949-1968)," from the prolific Film Score Monthly label, is a 15-CD set that covers much of the Hungarian-born composer's output for MGM -- 25 scores in all, including several titles long-sought by collectors: "Madame Bovary," "Quo Vadis" and "The Power."
(via Variety and an email from Nathan Cone-TPRCinema)
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The Chinese musician Lang Lang, 27, has signed for Sony Classical for $3 million, an executive familiar with the move at his old label Deutsche Grammophon told me. A Sony spokeswoman in London said that the company wouldn’t comment.
Lang Lang is credited with an explosion of music teaching in his own country, where more than 40 million children are said to be taking private piano lessons. A tinkling of Ravel can be heard from high-rises in boomtown Tianjin.
He has been a star in the west and an Elvis-like figure back home ever since he sold out Carnegie Hall, performing the Grieg concerto at the age of 19 in 2001. He was mobbed on his first return to Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra that year. The pianist signed a record contract with Deutsche Grammophon, part of Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group.
He released his first disc in 2003 featuring concertos by Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
Since then, Lang Lang has regularly topped the classical charts and, on occasion, achieved sales of pop music dimensions. In a specialist genre where releases sell in a few hundreds, Lang Lang sells in the hundreds of thousands.
Opening the Beijing Olympics in July 2008 on a snow-white piano, he was watched by more than five billion viewers and achieved bigger worldwide recognition than any classical hero since Luciano Pavarotti. A piano manufacturer created the Lang Lang Steinway. The Prince of Wales asked him to premiere a concerto he had commissioned in memory of his grandmother, the Queen Mother. Lang Lang had the world at his feet and was accustomed to getting his own way.
At the rarified Deutsche Grammophon, which shelters such media-averse pianists as Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini and Krystian Zimerman, Lang Lang’s noisy populism was never an easy fit. When he demanded the dismissal of Yundi Li, the first Chinese winner of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, the label acquiesced immediately, according to a dissenting producer. (Yundi Li has put a softer spin on his departure). Lang Lang was the one artist no label could afford to lose.
So when Sony rebooted its classical wing last April after a long dormancy, the new chief Bogdan Roscic was given an open checkbook and told: “Get Lang Lang.”
Last week, at the Midem Festival in Cannes, France, the industry was abuzz with leaks and executive rumors that Sony Classical had signed Lang Lang for $3 million -- peanuts for a footballer but so huge for a classical artist that the Sony Corp. provided funds from outside the classical budget. The U.K. magazine Gramophone reported the move on Jan. 26, without giving a figure.
Although Sony has refused to comment on either the signing or the sum involved, an executive at Deutsche Grammophon confirmed both the signing and the fee in an e-mail to me.
Lang Lang wasn’t immediately available for comment. He was playing in Madrid at the weekend in the national auditorium. Lang Lang is also involved in raising funds for Haiti as a Unicef ambassador. His responsiveness to world affairs is another source of value to the music industry. He signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with Sony in April 2008 to promote its hardware products globally.
The implications of his transfer extend far beyond the cloisters of classical music. Sony has scored a blow against the market leader while Universal has been caught in transition, with its chairman Doug Morris due to step down this summer.
At stake is the last frontier for western classical music -- the burgeoning middle-classes of the east Asia economies. In China, recorded music is routinely pirated and consumers are unused to paying for their stars. Those habits can only be changed by an artist of Lang Lang’s compelling attraction --and all labels are aware of that.
EMI has just signed Yundi Li on the rebound, while Deutsche Grammophon has Yuja Wang in the offing -- with support from conductor Claudio Abbado, who chose her to open his Lucerne Festival last summer.
Still, the capture of Lang Lang gives Sony a decisive advantage.