If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lang Lang plays Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1

 Lang Lang plays Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 1M

With classical music facing tough times, major recording companies are understandably cautious about signing new artists and releasing new recordings of standard repertoire. Much-released favorites like the First Piano Concertos of Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn particularly sag under the weight of so many versions in the back catalogue.

 Lang Lang plays Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 1M_2nd part

Still, this new recording by 30-year-old Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang demonstrates that even the most unabashedly familiar fare sometimes deserves to be heard anew by younger talent.

A student of Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music, Lang first gained widespread public acclaim in 1999, when, on two day's notice, he replaced an ailing André Watts at the Ravinia Festival. His resume has been growing ever since, and this summer alone, he is making high-profile engagements with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, and at the BBC Proms.

He also kicked off Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival and made his Carnegie Hall debut recital. His signing to the prestigious German label Deutsche Grammophon further suggests that he has a bright future ahead of him.

Lang's powerful and very personal reading of the Tchaikovsky Concerto demonstrates that he does not let bravura technique get the better of his musical judgment.

The concerto is the standard work against which all pianists must measure themselves, but Lang reminds us that the concerto is genuine music and not merely a flashy barn-burner of fast octaves.

Unlike many pianists attempt to smooth over the concerto's disjointed qualities, he takes measured tempos and brings a sense of cohesiveness through imaginative phrasing and subtle contrasts in dynamics.

 Lang Lang plays Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 2M

Lang is responsive to the music's every twist and turn in the first movement, eliciting pointed nuances and sparkling quality to the faster passages. The middle movement displays some wonderful legato playing, while the finale has a comic, even sly quality that suits Lang's ebullient temperament particularly well.

It can be reasonably argued that Lang Lang's powerhouse technique does not alone justify his fast-growing reputation and all of the accompanying promotional hype.
Yet he also shows much potential as an interpreter, and a steady, balanced career trajectory should yield even greater artistic growth from this exciting young pianist.
--Brian Wise

“The fabulous technique, the absolute control (even at hell-bent tempos), the flexible rhythm, the firmly centered, infinitely colored tone that can switch on a dime from tornado-like intensity to supple delicacy, the risk-taking temperament—all these things are already there in [Lang Lang’s] pianism,” wrote von Rhein. “He is a phenomenal talent.”

This showcases Lang Lang’s phenomenal dynamic range, and the earmarks of the young pianist—hitting the keys with a bit too much strength, for example—only show up in a few places.

Lang Lang plays Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 3M

Lang Lang is at his best when tearing into the most tumultuous passages of the Tchaikovsky with unbridled gusto. Listeners who come to this recording with a classic rendition of Tchaikovsky’s First in mind—say, of Vladimir Horowitz or Van Cliburn—may find the youthful energy off-putting, but to Lang Lang on his own terms can be wonderfully rewarding.-- John Tabin 

This was Lang Lang's 2004 performance with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic at the Waldbühne attended by 23,000 people and was broadcast internationally on TV.

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  1. It is heart warming to see a young and robust talent spreading classical music all over the world. I hope he becomes a goodwill ambassador for serious music; we have enough shallow stars on this planet.
    I cannot think of a single white musician who has become an admired proponent of the music in Asia, Russia, Africa or other corners of the world. I wonder why?

    1. Hello, eriatilos.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I really appreciate it.

    2. You stated: "I cannot think of a single white musician who has become an admired proponent of the music in Asia, Russia, Africa or other corners of the world. I wonder why?"

      Here is WHY ---

      He is loved by many and reviled by others but the only thing you can't do is ignore him - his status is only heightened by his personal eccentricities and flamboyance for drawing public attention. He brought the idea of excitement in piano playing to a higher pitch than anyone I've ever heard. Always, there's this sense of unbelievable energy with each of his 10 fingers dancing nimbly across a keyboard like each have a mind of its own.

      It is not only his bubbly personality that is extraordinary, his dazzling charisma, or virtuosic technical skill, but also his dramatic presentation. How fascinating to see sheer outburst of emotions, like full of sunshine, beauty, and exaltation! It is said Lang's interpretations aren't just expressions of feeling but the feelings themselves.Playing with an almost unbridled energy and intensity, there is an intricate give-and-take between piano and the orchestra..

      It can be tough to think of a more influential musician than Lang Lang. Lang Lang is out to conquer the world!
      He perhaps aims to change the course of music artistry, in a sense that, unlike any predecessors who remained satisfied in subtly working their way within the established forms- LL surpassed and overshadowed them with indomitable spirit by blowing away the bounds of musicianship thereby proving to be the catalyst for future generations to explore MUSIC.

      This could well be history in the making. Consider these:
      Lang Lang has performed with most of the major orchestras of the world, has given sold out recitals and concerts in many major cities.Each concert performances were extraordinary. He has received numerous awards and has been seen by millions of television viewers throughout the world. He is also passionate in sharing music, especially with young people, and was named by NARAS as its Cultural Ambassador to China and appointed by UNICEF as its youngest international Goodwill Ambassador.