Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Welcome to Piano City

A very interesting, and in some ways unsettling, article on China's "Piano City". Some key grafs:

"In the metropolises of contemporary China, as we are constantly informed, a fondness for Beethoven is considered modern, an expression of aspirations for a western lifestyle. Far more desirable still is to have your very own little Beethoven interpreter in the family"

and then there's this image:

"The pianos have been pushed together at the centre of the long, narrow, sales rooms, flanked to the right and left by endless flights of instruction rooms. Each of these sound-proofed cells, measuring four meters square, is furnished identically with a piano, a pairs of chairs, a neon light, dusky pink wallpaper, and a coat rack. During lessons, the little ones can be observed through the windows, and listened to through the door, as they play simple folk melodies in C major, Czerny etudes, easy Bach, or Mozart's "Alla Turca."

Such an image strikes me as off-putting. More so this: "Prevailing in piano training, hence, is a performance mentality not unlike the one found in gymnastics. Musical ability is tested regularly, assigned a competency index, and matched against the competition in contests and auditions. "

And to such questions as these: "Can you really play Haydn and Mozart if you have always lived behind the Great Wall of China, and have never even seen Vienna, Austria, or Europe? Can you plumb the depths of classical music without having a centuries-old tradition behind you, a tradition that resonates unmistakably and continuously when the Berliner Philharmoniker is performing? And what could serve as a source of emotional access to such music in a country where only forty years ago, anyone who played Mozart risked having his fingers broken by Mao's cultural revolutionaries? "

Setting aside the silly eurocentrism, I still find it very seriously doubtful that Lang Lang is the answer.

Read the rest here.

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