Lang Lang: Play the chestnuts

Finding the right blend of new music and classical “core pieces” is a delicate balancing act, both in radio and the concert hall.  New music that works in concert doesn’t always work well on the air.  Sometimes there is a visual aspect without which the music becomes two-dimensional.

Other times, a new piece actually makes more sense when you hear a recording.  Some pieces of music simply aren’t “radio friendly,” oftentimes simply because listeners tend to tune in and out a lot and listen while involved in other activities.

Whatever your take on the subject, I find that I must strongly disagree with Los Angeles Times writer Marcia Adair, who writes, “For core classical music fans, playing popular pieces is nothing more than pandering to the lowest common denominator.”

Excuse me? Pandering?

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is “pandering to the lowest common denominator?”  Beethoven’s 9th Symphony?  Moonlight Sonata?  Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d?

That’s like saying Julia Childs would never have eaten spaghetti.

Lang Lang is in my court on this one, it seems.  He says, “I totally disagree.  A lot of what you call the great repertoire is popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great work.  I think it’s totally wrong.”  The writer says his face was “a mix of annoyance and incredulity.”

As well it should be. Not to get on my soap box, but this pretentious attitude is one of the reasons classical music has had such a struggle. I have heard so many people say they are uncomfortable going to a classical music performance because they, “don’t know anything about it, don’t know when to clap, what to wear, etc.”  How can we ever hope to attract people to the music we love when this is they think, feelings brought on by attitudes such as the one above?

Next time you have a chance, invite someone to a concert, someone who normally would never go.  Let them experience what we have. That this music can be listened to on many, many levels and enjoy in many, many ways.  Then write Marcia Adair and tell her what you think about her opinion.

Read: Lang Lang: Popular classical music is great, too (L.A. Times)

Watch: Lang Lang with Tavis Smiley