Los Angeles Music Preview: LANG LANG (Solo Recital at Disney Hall)

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by Frank Arthur on January 24, 2017

in Music


The first time I saw Chinese pianist Lang Lang perform live was at Disney Hall, and I must admit I was somewhat taken aback. For years, I had heard about LL the showman, that his ostentatious style of performing–facial mugging, speeding up passages to show off his technique–was more important than the music itself. The adjectives I heard! Impulsive, reckless, self-indulgent.

Here’s what I found, and the reason why I urge you to check him out in a solo recital at Disney Hall for one night only on February 1, 2017: Sure, LL was effusive, but questions of style and taste aside, man oh man could the guy play the piano! His buttery and strong interpretation of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was a sight to see (and the many young people in the audience validated the 34-year-old as a pop-cultural icon of the classical world). Prokofiev trademarks—bursts of mischievous jocularity, an almost uncontainable pulsating drive, and a blend of audaciousness and lyricism—were fascinating to watch, especially when, with intertwined digits, the pianist flawlessly executed the intricate fingerwork and cross-hand jumps of the 1921 concerto.

He played for long stretches without even looking at the ivories, which for me went beyond mere confidence into a realm of relaxation and apparent effortlessness; he’s a sublime nonchalant monster machine with a heart. Sure, he was showy, and I had to laugh when a millennial nearby said, “Oh my God, his hands are like moving four billion miles a second!”

In an incredibly diverse program is Liszt’s emotionally charged Piano Sonata in B minor, considered one of the composer’s greatest works for solo piano. Here’s a taste of Lang Lang (pronounced “Lahng-Lahng”) performing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. But better: I suggest you see him live.

DEBUSSY: Ballade
LISZT: Piano Sonata in B minor:

20-minute intermission

ALBÉNIZ: Selections from Suite española, Op. 47
GRANADOS: Selections from Goyescas, Op. 11
FALLA: Ritual Fire Dance

Lang Lang, piano
solo recital presented by LA Phil
Walt Disney Concert Hall
135 North Grand Avenue
Wednesday, February 1, 2017,  at 8
for tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit LA Phil

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