Chopin, Scherzos / Tchaikovsky, The Seasons, Lang Lang (Sony, 2015)
It was fortunate that Lang Lang had Christoph Eschenbach on the podium. Eschenbach's sensitive accompaniment seemed to owe something to his experience as a keyboard soloist. The NSO was a willing partner for most of the concerto, allowing Lang Lang to plumb the piano's dynamic range, from a barely perceptible pianissimo in the third movement to a thunderous fortissimo that ended the concerto. The NSO and Eschenbach get credit also for carefully following Lang Lang during his frequent rubatos, which allowed the pianist to let loose his dazzling technique, particularly in the first movement's cadenza and later in a short cadenza in the finale, where Lang Lang's lightning-fast cross-hand work elicited gasps from the audience. It was in the first cadenza, though, that Lang Lang demonstrated that he can use his prodigious technique to create stylish interpretations. His coloring and voicing in the cadenza, allowing him to imitate the sound of a harp at times, displayed a depth of interpretation heard far less during earlier appearances in Washington.
As expected, the finale featured Lang Lang pushing the speed limit, displaying energy and feats of extreme pianism, culminating in a raucous ovation, which was rewarded with a memorable encore. Without having to concern himself with an orchestra, Lang Lang raced through Ernesto Lecuona’s Cuban Dance. That he played it faster than any dancer could manage to move mattered little. His hands seemed to go three times as quickly as they did in the Grieg.
Anne Midgette, NSO offers chestnuts, and Lang Lang, in enjoyable evening (Washington Post, October 30)
This concert repeats tonight and Saturday night, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.