Fiddling around YouTube the other day in search of a video of someone playing Chopin's Op. 60 Barcarolle, I ran across this pianist.
26-year-old (or so) Lola Astanova was born in Tashkent, in the former Soviet Union, and has lived in New York now for several years. In addition to having an apparently fail-safe technique and a coherent and independent musical vision, she seems remarkably composed for someone so young--thoughtful and eloquent and self-possessed. I love that a person so obviously gifted will bubble to the surface and be discovered. (I often wonder how many Buddy Riches spent their lives working as plumbers for lack of a little push early in life in just the right direction...)
But Ms. Astanova--the phenomenon of her--raises another issue: how she is marketing herself. Her YouTube videos lead one to her own YouTube channel, and she also has her own website and a blog. She has released her first album, which is available on iTunes and, for whatever price you'd like to pay, from her website.
This all reflects a very new career path for a classical musician. And, I have to think, one the outcome of which is quite unsure.
I spent some time listening to her videos and reading interviews and related material and so on. And Ms. Astanova is part of the ongoing experiment developing a model which will have a huge impact, when it's settled, on exactly what remains of the once-powerful classical music industry. The availability of so much information via the internet raises questions about niche marketing and fads-versus-quality concepts, all of it having implications quite above my pay grade. But just when I might expect classical music overall to struggle, this all makes me wonder whether the internet might in fact be a boon for classical music. Stay tuned.
A couple other YouTube discoveries of late are organist Chelsea Chen (pity about the unsynchronized video) and pianist Yujia Wang. (I stumbled upon Ms. Wang while looking for a video of Horowitz playing his Carmen Variations. A related video called Carmen from the Practice Room promised what looked like a highschool girl attempting a butchery of Horowitz--how often these things show up. Boy was I wrong.) In the past, I would have learned of these performers only if a major recording label had taken a shine to them and put some big dollars behind promotion of their talents. Time will tell if this newer method will result in viable careers for these young performers.