CONCERT ASSOCIATION (3-29-06)
By Lawrence Budmen
Some listeners believe pianist Lang Lang is a genius. Others judge him as loud and far short of subtle.
When the Concert Association presented the Chinese born artist’s recital on Wednesday, there was strong evidence that neither viewpoint is totally valid. This pianist is a larger than life artistic personality. He filled the Broward Center for the Performing Arts with a flowing palette of tonal colors and commanded extremes of volume and sonority. A tendency to emphasize flashy, superficial effects over probing musicality sometimes undermined his efforts.
Mozart’s Sonata No.10 in C Major received a sparkling rendition. Lang brought a singing line to the Andante cantabile, perfectly gauging the score’s pianistic bel canto. Lithe, clipped phrasing strongly characterized the final Allegretto.
After an expressive opening movement and a bold Scherzo taken at lightening speed, Chopin’s Sonata No.3 in B Minor tended to disintegrate. Lang played the Largo at such an extremely slow tempo that the music was devoid of pulse. The Presto finale was merely loud with little dynamic variety or rhythmic inflection.
The pianistic art song of Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) was sensitively projected. Lang’s command of mood painting, rhythmic impetus, and floating colors and timbres brought the cycle vividly to life. Traumerei has rarely sounded so dreamy, endowed with cascading tonal hues – the very essence of the art of the miniature.
Two of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes, Op.23 were exhibitions of speed and volume at the expenses of romantic ardor. Beneath the pyrotechnical demonstration, the music’s grandeur was shortchanged.
Lang proved to be a Liszt player extraordinaire. The Petrarch Sonnet No.24 was eloquently shaped. Lang’s rolling octaves had visceral power while his sensitively sculpted soft tones were beautiful.
Vladimir Horowitz’s rewrite of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 brought out Lang’s thunder and dexterity but also exquisite shading and gypsy fervor.
The audience’s enthusiasm brought encores. Moon over the Lake, a Chinese song, was part pseudo-Rachmaninoff, part New Age reverie. The program concluded with a breezy, casual version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee – a microcosm of the musical paradox that is Lang Lang.