A passionate player with impeccable technique, Lang Lang has not always been treated kindly by critics, who have accused him of being nothing more than a virtuoso showman and seem to resent his popular appeal. Last night's measured and introspective performance, however, demonstrates that Lang Lang, who turned thirty last week, is moving into a new phase of musical maturity. Regular readers of this blog will have understood that I'm a huge fan of this charismatic pianist and have seen him play many times before in Rome, but last night's intimate programme of Bach, Schubert and Chopin, must surely rank as the finest Lang Lang's performance I've seen yet – I was mesmerized.
The evening opened with Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV 825, executed with grace and elegance. I particularly enjoyed the final Gigue, and the seemingly effortless precision of the left hand crossing back and forth over the right in a fast tempo.
This was followed by an epic performance of Schubert's final Sonata in B flat major, D.960. The masterpiece was written during the last months of the composer's life in 1828, and Lang Lang brought real foreboding to the opening movement with heavy emphasis on the bass tremolos, thereafter leading his captivated audience through every subsequent mood change.
After a short interval, Lang Lang was back on stage for an extraordinary second half consisting of Chopin’s 12 Études, Op. 25. The Winter Wind Étude (No.11) and the final Ocean Étude (No.12) were quite simply breathtaking.
Lang Lang's impeccable artistry was met with ecstatic approval at the end of the programme - thunderous applause, cheers of “bravo” and a well-deserved standing ovation (never a given in Rome where audiences are generally rather lazy about getting to their feet), brought Lang Lang back out on stage for three exquisite encores – Liszt's Romance, Chopin's Nocturne No.1, and an apparently spontaneous Grande Valse Brillante.
Utterly unmissable! A fantastic concert!
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV 825
Sonata in B flat major, D.960
12 Études, Op. 25
Nocturne in B Flat Minor Op.9 No.1
Grande Valse Brilliante
The Lang Lang Fest at the Auditorium Parco della Musica continues on Thursday 21 June with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in an evening dedicated to Beethoven, and again on Friday 22 June when he'll perform together with 100 young pianists from the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in a special workshop/concert.