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Lang Lang does the tango in Los Angeles, sashaying between east and west, ably striking just the right balance between acclaimed classical pianist and pleasure-seeking hip cat.
I first heard Lang Lang's name in a CD store in 2004. The shop owner avidly introduced him as a "young Chinese pianist who plays like the piano is on fire." Born in 1982, Lang went from promising debutant to the bright star of classical music in just a few years.
Lang is especially noted for his tonal nuances and admirable techniques. The Baltimore Sun commented that his playing "packs tremendous energy, but its potency comes as much from lyricism and tonal warmth as dexterity and sheer stamina." Next to his various performances with big-name orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic, his engagement with the White House and Berlin Parliaments, he's also become the youngest international Goodwill Ambassador for Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Some too regard Lang Lang as an embassador of Chinese music. Indeed, departing from the canonical Western musical literature, his most recent studio recording Dragon Songs contains a range of Chinese piano music, from lyrical solos, chamber music to a large-scaled well-known Chinese concerto, "Yellow River." These 20th century pieces are based on older sources using the idioms and expressions of traditional Chinese music; the result is a delightful blending of two musical worlds.
Good looks and charisma in the ambassador? Certainly. Funky hair and cool Chinese shirt at a Chopin concert? Yes! What's more, Lang Lang knows how to capture the heart of an audience with expressivity.
On February 16, 2007, Lang Lang provided a unique and fresh interpretation of Chopin in his performance with the L.A. Philharmonic.
After the orchestra had established the serious atmosphere for the first movement, Lang Lang unfolded his capacity for dynamics: the contrast of his fortes in the opening bars and his subsequent lyrical cadence in softer color is stunning. He introduces the theme in a lyrical manner, and his sound is warm, affectionate and far from detached. Lang Lang breezes through the demanding passages matter-of-factly, subtly impressing the audience with his infallible technique.
A veritable "poet," a title attributed to him by composer Tan Dun, Lang Lang paints Chopin's sonorous landscapes with his quiet, melodious passages, evoking imagery of nature, wrapping fantastical sonorous scenes around the stage. This is especially apparent in the rendering of the second movement. I found myself seeing flowing water, dews falling on leaves and spider webs. Sensitive, quiet yet pondering, his touch infuses a sense of clarity; phrases are bent with sophistication.
The pianist's extroverted charm is revealed in the third movement as he lights up the hall with his enthusiastic fortes. He is at home with the joyous musical lines and the faster tempo; his playfulness and passion for music is at once clear. Lang Lang is having fun with Chopin and the audience loved it.
Nevermind the eager hands of the audience after the 1st movement (when you are supposed to hold your breath). Lang Lang received a standing ovation by the end. After a long fermata of applause and bravos, Lang Lang played "Spring Song" (affectionately nicknamed "Chinese Tango" by the pianist himself) from his newest album Dragon Songs as an encore, only leaving his audience more feverish with his virtuosic, pearl-like taking of the notes. After several rounds of applause, he literally had to drag the first violinist off his seat, tangoing away to urge the crowd into intermission.
Lang Lang's playing, like his bright and victorious sounding name, resonated firmly through the audience's enthusiastic kudos after his performance of Chopin's 1st Concerto with the L.A. Philharmonic in February. If you missed it, fret not, he will return next season.
Date Posted: 3/16/2007