I saw Lang Lang 3 days ago at Carnegie Hall on Friday October 23rd, 2015. It was a memorable evening, so I wanted to share the experience here.
The concert was scheduled for 8:30 pm, but Lang Lang did not come on stage until 10 minutes later. When he walked out, I was struck by how thin he was. Not unhealthy, just fit and stylish.
His shoes were pointed and shiny, maybe patent leather. His pants were the style of today’s young men, narrow-legged, slim around the ankles. They reminded me of what we used to call “drainpipes” in the 1960’s. My school banned them because they reflected the evils of rock-and-roll.
Tchaikovsky “The Seasons”
Lang Lang’s performance was superlative from the beginning. Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, which was new to me, was rendered beautifully. The Russian dances that pop up during this piece (e.g. February) were a little muddy, but that’s the composer’s fault. As to June, I recognized and loved it instantly. Under Lang Lang’s hands it was a cross between Chopin and Brahms. You can find it at around 18:30 in this video.
Johann Sebastian Bach Italian Concerto, BWV 971
I am not going to comment on this delectable piece. Lang Lang played it beautifully, there is not much else to say.
The Chopin Scherzo’s came after the Intermission and were the highlight of the evening. Lang Lang’s playing can only be described as bravura. This man can attack the piano and get away with it, because he is technically impeccable. I have never enjoyed Scherzo #2 as much as I did at this recital. The following video of him playing this Scherzo is comparable to what he did for us , but at Carnegie his performance was sharper and cleaner, going beyond anyone I have seen play live.
Lang Lang’s first encore, the Ponce Intermezzo, was adorable. I have to add this to my repertoire! If you don’t know it, try this YouTube rendition by Glenda Courtois.
Lang Lang the Showman
What else do I remember? Lang Lang’s signature sharp head movements, his face turned up and towards the audience, his skinny legs splayed wide, those elvish pointy shoes. He pedalled soft and sostenuto at the same time during the Tchaikovsky. In the Chopin scherzlo’s, he was speed-pedaling as if am spinnrade.
I just had to love Lang Lang’s unique (as far as I know) way of whipping his right hand back and down from the keyboard, as if he were kneepcapping a man standing behind him. And good grief, how he hammered out those big Chopin scherzo’s! Lang Lang is a slight man, so I understand how the larger Franz Liszt would break a piano while performing.
Lang Lang loves his audience. He embraced us collectively with warm gestures before sitting down at the piano. When he took his bows at the end of each segment, and at the end of each Chopin scherzo, he put one leg (with its pointy shoe) forward and bowed deep from the waist. His hand went over his heart again and again. He raised his arms to us at the left, the center, and the right. I felt such rapport with this masterful pianist, because he knew what he was uniquely able to give us, and he knew that we loved every minute.
For those of us who both love and play the piano, watching Lang Lang at Carnegie Hall on October 23rd, 2015, was rapturous.