In the West, classical music is an old-fashioned art superseded by rock, hip-hop, and other pop forms that speak to the young. Yet in China, a country closed off to the West during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, classical music is considered the new fashion. Every time I play a concert in China, 90 percent of the audience is younger than twenty years old... Sales of pianos are falling in the United States, but sharply rising in China.
China's love for classical music can often be naive. There's a joke I like to tell about a group of record producers who greeted the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy in their boardroom to discuss a new recording of Chopin's waltzes. The producers sat silently until Ashkenazy asked they should begin the meeting. "Shouldn't we wait for the composer?" one of them asked... Somebody also asked me whether Elise plays better than Beethoven (Beethoven wrote a piece called "FÜr Elise"). I answered, "What do you think?" I don't mind when a Chinese audience claps in between the movements of a concerto instead of waiting till the end. The love of the music is more important to me than traditional etiquette.