Lang Lang Live At Carnegie Hall on 180g 2LP + Download
Throughout its long and rich history New York's Carnegie Hall and great pianism have been synonymous. One looks back, for instance, on Arthur Rubinstein's 1961 ten-recital marathon, Rudolf Serkin's televised 75th birthday recital, Artur Schnabel's 1935 cycle of the complete Beethoven Sonatas (a tradition Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini and Daniel Barenboim have carried on at the hall in recent seasons). Images of chilly fans waiting overnight in line to buy tickets for Vladimir Horowitz's historic return, or the unprecedented ovation greeting Martha Argerich's first solo appearance in more than 20 years still resonate with music lovers. Many of these occasions, of course, resulted in commercial recordings, including Lang Lang's Carnegie Hall recital debut on November 7, 2003.
Given Lang Lang's swift and steady ascent, one can easily imagine the inevitable pressure on this young artist to deliver the goods in the face of increased scrutiny from colleagues and critics. As it happens, he handles the limelight with confidence and consummate grace. After walking onstage, he took plenty of time to greet a full, appreciative house, acknowledging choice seat and upper balcony patrons with equal consideration. He seemed unfazed by the barrage of dangling microphones and strategically placed state-of-the-art video cameras. Such a scenario would have been unthinkable for the microphone-shy Richter back in 1960.
Either by design or coincidence, Lang Lang's choice of music and mode of presentation both asserted his own 21st-century sensibility and paid homage to his pianistic precedents and mentors. His opening selection, Schumann's "Abegg" Variations, figured in Yevgeny Kissin's 1990 Carnegie debut, while Haydn's C major Sonata appeared twice during Sviatoslav Richter's celebrated five-concert Carnegie debut run in 1960. And it's not insignificant that Lang Lang closed the first half of his program with Schubert's "Wanderer" Fantasy, which was the very first work his teacher at the Curtis Institute, Gary Graffman, recorded back in 1955.
At the piano, Lang Lang's body language communicates as clearly as his words; one can infer the organic connection between his circular arm movements and the music. He usually takes his time before launching into each selection, with hands positioned above the keyboard as if preparing for a rigorous, concentrated session of Tai Chi. This accounts not only for the remarkable power and speed of his double notes and octaves (as you readily hear in Liszt's Réminiscences de Don Juan), but also the delicacy, nuance, control and ravishing tone colors he obtains in softer passages.
These qualities particularly manifest themselves in Tan Dun's evocative, impressionistic Eight Memories in Watercolor, which were inspired by the folksongs and culture of the composer's early childhood, recalling an era when the violence of the Cultural Revolution was ebbing and Western music would no longer be banned. Lang Lang's sensitive, idiomatic performance, if nothing else, exemplifies the pianist's heartfelt affinity for his native country's artistic heritage. (Small wonder that for the concert's second half Lang Lang exchanged conventional concert tails for a traditional Chinese red shirt.)
Likewise, the encores are emblematic of Lang Lang's past, present and future. He brought out his father, Guo-ren Lang, a professional performer of the erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed instrument, for Two Horses, an erhu/piano duet that bristles with spirited, affectionate interplay. Schumann's evergreen Träumerei, of course, is forever associated with Vladimir Horowitz (Graffman's teacher and Lang Lang's "grandteacher"), but every pianist owns Liszt's Liebestraum No. 3, a work that is either overplayed or taken for granted. Moments like these are better experienced than described. Hear for yourself.
Lang Lang (piano)
Robert Schumann (composer)
Franz Schubert (composer)
Joseph Haydn (composer)
Tan Dun (composer)
Fréderic Chopin (composer)
Franz Liszt (composer)
Huang Hai Hwai / Chen Rao Xing / Shen Li Qun (composer)
Lang Lang Live At Carnegie Hall Track Listing:
2. Schumann - Abegg Variations, Op.1
3. Haydn - Piano Sonata in C, H.XVI No.50 - Allegro
4. Haydn - Piano Sonata in C, H.XVI No.50 - Adagio
5. Haydn - Piano Sonata in C, H.XVI No.50 - Allegro molto
6. Schubert - Fantasy in C Major "Wanderer" - Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo
7. Schubert - Fantasy in C Major "Wanderer" - Adagio
8. Schubert - Fantasy in C Major "Wanderer" - Presto
9. Schubert - Fantasy in C Major "Wanderer" - Allegro
1. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Missing Moon
2. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Beans
3. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Herdboy's Song
4. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Blue Nun
5. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Red Wilderness
6. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Ancient Burial
7. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Floating Clouds
8. Dun - Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1 - Sunrain
9. Chopin - Nocturne No.8 in D flat, Op.27 No.2
10. Liszt - Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418 (after Mozart)
11. Schumann - Kinderszenen, Op.15 - Träumerei
12. Huang Hai Hwai / Chen Rao Xing / Shen Li Qun - Horses
13. Liszt - Liebestraum No.3 in A flat, S.541 No.3