George A. Pieler continues his Piano-Recital April with this review from Lang Lang's performance at Strathmore, where he also heard Messrs. Serkin and Li, while catching Mr. Reichenbach at the Swiss Embassy.
With two Lang Lang experiences under the belt for this season (disappointing Mozart in Chicago, stunning Chopin with the NSO in December), I approached his WPAS-organized Strathmore recital with no fixed expectation. Mr. Lang’s challenging Thursday program left no doubt that he is a rare throwback to the old-fashioned keyboard virtuoso with the chops to take risks and the daring to do so. Not all those risks pan out.
Mr. Lang warmed up with the night’s Mozart du jour, the B-flat sonata, K. 333. As with his Chicago Mozart (Concerto 24) his playing was fluent and elegant, note-precise, and a bit cold. Mr. Lang may not know what he wants from Mozart, but at moments he clearly thinks “what can I do with this music” rather than “what can I do for this music.” Mozart came through, especially in the fanciful concluding rondo, but this is not yet a match made in heaven.
|In receding order of awfulness:|
Carnegie Recital, Lang Lang
"Memory" Recital, Lang Lang
Tchaikovsky/Mendelssohn, 1st Piano Concertos, Lang Lang, Barenboim, CSO
The second half introduced ‘Lang, the Cultural Ambassador’, as the Curtis-trained native of Shenyang introduced and described in some detail six (only three were threatened in the program) traditional Chinese tunes in modern arrangements. Three would have been enough, but all were delivered with virtuoso charm, some of the arrangements quite complex, and “Spring Dance” in its tango-like rhythms (as Mr. Lang noted) would make a great encore even for non-Chinese artists. Spain preceded China, with beautifully sprung rhythms in Granados’ “Los requiebros” from Goyescas.
Post-China all hell broke loose. Mr. Lang plunged into Liszt’s arrangement of Isolde’s Liebestod, soaking every drop of passion from the music with hair’s-breadth control and drawing tears from the attractive lady seated next to me. Then the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6, pounding opening chords almost predicting Bartók, and a manic, hyper-virtuoso race to the conclusion that nearly splintered the Steinway. No fingers have ever flown faster or louder, virtuosity-over-music bringing the audience to its feet. No complaint from this quarter — it’s Liszt.
Winding the audience down with Chopin (E-major etude, op. 10, no. 3) and back with a ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ too fast for the music to make sense – all in fun – Lang Lang left the audience wanting more. A rare enough occurrence these days.