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Category: Interviews

The right chemistry

"We have come to Warsaw to look for new, young talents so we can work with them from the very beginning to develop their careers" – interview with Michael Lang, director of the Deutsche Grammophon.

Since Maurizio Pollini won in 1960, DG has signed the winners of the Chopin Competition. But not all of them. Sometimes the label has taken on some who didn’t win, such as Jean-Marc Luisada or even those who even didn’t get into the finals, like Ivo Pogorelich. How do you decide?

It’s certainly true that Deutsche Grammophon has enjoyed a very long and fruitful relationship with the Competition, but you have to remember that signing an artist is a very individual decision every time. It really depends on the current generation of A&R people; the label has a long history and there is no single criterion that spans all this time; rather it’s a series of serious and competent A&R people that have made these decisions fromone Competition to another. It would be difficult for me to speak about it as a whole. It’s about an individual making individual decisions.

It seems from ou recent signings that you are looking for artists who receive a special response from the audience e.g. Anna Netrebko or Hélène Grimaud.

I think what has changed, certainly now more than ever, is that record companies are signing young, unknown artists. Anna Netrebko was basically young and unknown when we signed her. The audience response and embrace came shortly after that. The first criteria are of course talent and creativity, and then there are other factors, such as personality and ambition. We have come to Warsaw to look for new, young talents so we can work with them from the very beginning to develop their careers, especially their recording careers. Of course that has to be done in parallel with their concert careers, and hopefully in perfect harmony.

In this time of recession in the recording industry, and with quite a few recent signings, how much room do you have for new pianists?

We have enough room as there are good pianists.

So is it possible DG will take on more than one from this year’s Competition?

Let me put it this way: there is no limit in terms of numbers. It is a matter of tangible and intangible criteria that come together into a decision. And one of the parts of the process is the fact that we have to sit down with the musicians and talk to them about what they want out of their career, and how they see themselves – well, I hate to say this – but in the artistic marketplace. And if we feel there’s the right chemistry alongside the talent, then there could be a very fruitful relationship.

You won’t name any specific names, I presume?

You’re right, I won’t! We’ve just begun the process of talking to people we are interested in. There’s a rather remarkable line-up in the finals of the Competition, so we’ll see. We’ll suprise you.

Interview by Bartosz Kamiński. The interview published by courtesy of the “Chopin Express” editorial staff.
Michael Lang

Michael Lang