sat 25/11/2017

Lang Lang, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Lang Lang, Royal Festival Hall

Lang Lang, Royal Festival Hall

Two minutes of real musicality in a display by today's Liberace of the piano

Lang Lang: What is inspiring? His art - or just his vast skills as a public communicator?

There must be at least 100 more interesting pianists in the concert world than Lang Lang, but perhaps he is just the best publicist around, because nothing else can explain why such a vacuous display as he gave last night at the Royal Festival Hall could bring a standing ovation. Most of the evening felt like being on a plushly cushioned chintz sofa with Tinkerbell, listening to Bach, Schubert and Chopin being served as a cream tea. Lang Lang Inspires is the slogan at the Southbank Centre all this week, but what is inspiring? His art - or just his vast skills as a public communicator, with 40 million Chinese piano students now credited to the Lang Lang effect?

In comes this showman with his precious, kittenish phrasing and facial expressions like a St Sebastian yearning for more and sharper arrows to come pierce his body

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Seated behind Lang Lang, I saw plenty of manual stylings but fewer of his facial expressions, though these could be readily inferred from their presumed effect upon some members of the front row. It makes me reflect on just how much of the critical reaction against Lang Lang is based upon what he does beyond the keyboard, and indeed how we would hear him in blind audition. Auditorily, much of what he does is not to my taste - unless he was in fact engaged in a heroic piece of triple bluff, most of the Schubert was bereft of the introspection, irony and indeed despair I usually find in the work. Bach was taken a very long way from home. But his technique and capacity is genuinely extraordinary and there was a lot to discover last night (albeit mostly in the op.25 Etudes), just as there was plenty that did not compute. I think the case of Lang Lang is just a little more complex than you're making out. Incidentally, if you want this level of pianism more firmly grounded in soul and thought, also look out for Behzod Abduraimov. Like Trpceski, he came through the London competition playing Prokofiev 3.

Excellent review and wonderfully written. There were some truly extraordinary displays of pianism (Op.25 no.4 was admittedly jawdropping), but as for artistry, the less said the better.

What a snobbish and insulting review of a wonderful recital.

Why, Mr de Bray, because you didn't agree with it?

A relief to find someone who is not taken in by the circus that is Lang Lang. I was not at the concert, but i have listened to it on Radio 3 and even in broadcast, it is obvious that this is a performance lacking in poetry, depth, aesthetic, humanity, or a proper understanding of what this music is about. His handling of the first and last movements of Schubert's 'heavenly' D960 was particularly jarring. Sure, he can play the notes, he's technically sound, flawless even, but this music requires more than that - a great deal more.

The very thought of knowing I was watching an abused kid perform on stage would just turn my stomach. And everyone is complicit in this - by falling for the usual exploitative hype and media attention and by still going to his concerts at all.By what I know of his upbringing (or lack of it) the effects in later life are inevitably going to be toxic if they aren't kicking in now - and then that's it: there will be no more Lang Lang. I agree there is a humble and serious musican underneath all this: but I wish he'd one day just break through and kill off this emotionally immature and utterly superficial monster because otherwise it's just left to carry on killing music, killing him, and isn't what music was (humbly) written for at all

Good article. Mr. Lang destroys music and it´s narrative contents and meaning.

Excellent piece of review that questions Lang Lang's interpretations, whether it was the lack of, or simply over indulging. In some ways, he reflected a bit of the arrogance of Gould (but at least Gould could play Bach flawlessly). Or maybe a modern day Andre Rieu but who could blame him for attracting a certain audience?

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