Wednesday, September 19, 2007
10 Years, 10 Concertos
Today the upcoming Beijing Music Festival held a press conference at the Beijing Olympics Media Centre. The 10-year-old event is somehow related to the summer Games, but I'm not quite sure how. But then again every other thing in the capital has some kind of tenuous link to the Olympics.
And the organizers got the two stars of the show to speak -- pianist Lang Lang and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
The 25-year-old Lang Lang will perform 10 piano concertos in one month starting September 21, including works by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Chopin. Apparently this feat has never been done before and BMF artistic director Yu Long is thrilled that Lang Lang will take this challenge on, accompanied on the stage with Barenboim.
Unfortunately tickets for all the Lang Lang concerts were sold out two months ago, showing that this young pianist has no trouble getting an appreciative audience.
Aside from the platitudes, it was clear Barenboim was thrilled to be in China to perform for the first time.
"I was born in Argentina and when I was 10-years-old, my family moved to Israel in 1952," he recalled. "It was the first time I heard of China as many players in the Israel Philharmonic escaped from Germany and went to Shanghai."
He also mentioned that one of his first encounters with Chinese musicians was when he met Yehudi Menuhin's son-in-law, the pianist Fou Ts'ong. "From Fou Ts'ong to Lang Lang, Chinese musicians have a natural warmth with music that not everyone has."
One reporter asked Barenboim if he thought music could create political and social change. But he gave a cryptic answer.
"Music cannot be used for anything," he replied. "It does not become communication or anything... but something can become music. You cannot speak about music, only express it in sound. It cannot be used for political issues, but rather what we can learn from music.
"When people play in an ensemble," he continued, "each person expresses himself to the fullest and must simultaneously listen to others. Music can have a behavioural effect on society. It's not music education, but education through music."
He went on to talk about his music school in Ramallah in the West Bank. The children learn discipline through music and they also learn how to sing and to be creative. "It has been proven that when children are occupied with music, you awaken their thinking capacity."
Someone else asked Barenboim what he thought of Lang Lang's playing, as he has taught the pianist for the past six years. He jokingly replied Lang Lang was "no good". But in all seriousness, Barenboim said the concert pianist is a breath of fresh air in the classical music world. "He's a natural talent. He has a curiosity to learn. There is a lot he can learn and he is learning as much as he can."
From that comment it sounds like this teacher-student relationship won't be ending anytime soon.