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Lang (Secular)/Lang (Sacred)

New York
Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall
10/27/2009 -  
Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A Festival Celebrating Chinese Culture
Franz Schubert: Rondo in A Major, D. 951
Hua Yanjun: The Moon Reflected on the Er-Quan Spring
Huang Haihuai (arr Guo Gan): Horseracing
Gu Jianfen: That is Me, Mama
Trad: Ussuri Fishermen’s Song
Mack Wilberg: Fantasy on Themes from Bizet’s “Carmen”
Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A Minor, op 50

Lang Lang, Marc Yu, Jinyi Zhang, Anna Larsen, Charlie Liu, Derek Wang (pianos), David Chan (Violin), Guo Gan (Erhu), Hai-Ye Ni (Cello), GeQun Wang (Tenor)

Lang Lang (© Andreas Praefke)

”Lang Lang And Friends” was exactly that. The still young, still developing piano virtuoso enjoyed a first half making friends with everybody. Neither shy nor verbose, he chatted with his audience and fellow artists. He treated the latter–especially the younger ones–as equals, and generously took a subordinate role when they performed.

That first half was amiable, interesting and varied. While Mr. Lang played no solos himself, he had a rare opportunity as a team player, easily foregoing his usual role as the Grand Artiste. Accompanying the famed blind erhu player, Guo Gan, his piano figurations worked as mere background for the ancient Chinese sounds of the instrument. American baritone GeQun Wang sung three Chinese folk-ish songs with a voice better suited for opera, but Mr. Lang’s piano was a bedrock for the melody.

The Schubert four-hand Rondo introduced an eight-year-old prodigy on the treble end of the piano. Both Marc Yu and Lang Lang played with grace and elegance (and a little tedium) for an opening work. Finally, no less than four young players from the Lang Lang Intrernational Music Foundation essayed Mark Wilberg’s Carmen fantasy, with Mr. Lang serving as semi-conductor from the side. It wasn’t the players’ fault, but this was a messy transcription.
Forty busy fingers are not necessarily forty Bizet fingers.

The second half had only one work, the symphony-sized Tchaikovsky Piano Trio, where Mr. Lang joined David Chan, concertmaster of the Met Orchestra, and Hai-Ye Ni, principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. No chatty introduction here, simply vigorous playing from all three soloists.

My initial feeling for that truly beautiful opening was how satisfying it was to hear Lang Lang play something so meaty. A born Tchaikovsky performer, who once hammed upt he Concerto, he no longer needs to prove himself. Mr. Lang was happy to play softly when necessary, and just as happy, especially in the last vigorous movement, to come right out, not only with massive chords, but gossamer-like counterpoint.
As for that half-hour movement of 11 variations, they can sometimes become tedious with the wrong player. Chorale, fugue, waltz, mazurka coming one after the other is too rich a blend. But Mr. Lang Lang made certain his two fine collaborators swung through that movement with irresistible energy.

Harry Rolnick



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