Lang Lang Emerges


Pianistic sensation Lang Lang was still an emerging phenomenon in the West when, at age 18, he performed at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Lang Lang: Live At Seiji Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood was recorded live in August, 2000. Telarc's famed engineer Jack Renner caught the Chinese whiz kid in fresh, first bloom glory, before his reputation grew so large that he was able to temporarily sabotage the recording career of a supposed rival Chinese sensation, Yundi.

Playing at a time when many critics had not yet gone for the jugular, Lang Lang caresses the keys in Haydn's Sonata in E major, Hoboken XVI:31. The contrast between his classically-styled, fleet-fingered finale and the turgid romanticism in the revised version of Rachmaninoff's Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 36 could not be greater. It sounds as though he's intoxicated with the waves of emotion that make Rachmaninoff's music what it is. The last movement, allegro molto, surges forth, the piano barely able to contain Lang Lang's exuberance.

Brahms' Six Pieces, Op. 118, begin as if cut from the same cloth. Here there is more room for variation and beauty. And the beauty abound, as it does in two shorter pieces by Tchaikovsky, the highly evocative and at times wild with life Dumka (Russian Rustic Scene), Op. 59, and Nocturne in C-sharp major, Op. 19, No. 4.

For what must have been his final encore, Lang Lang pulls out all the virtuosic stops with Balakirev's whirlwind "Oriental Fantasy," Islamey. What a recital!