Lang Lang – A True Classical Super Star

 

 I never lined up to ask anyone to sign an autograph, especially if the line was long. However , I did it tonight!

Lang Lang had a wonderful performance at San Francisco Symphony tonight. He played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Opus 26 (1921).

I bought his new CD like many of his fans, and lined up to ask him to sign his autograph. I am posting the cover of his CD, and his autograph. The CD is actually a package which is a limited edition including a CD, a bonus DVD, ” My Life With Chopin”, and a booklet that describes Lang Lang and Chopin.

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SanFrancisco Classical Voice had a very nice summary of his history and performance.  I have extracted part of it for your reference.

“One of the few true classical superstars who can sell out a large venue, Lang Lang is a cultural ambassador as well as a tremendous pianist.

Born: June 14, 1982, in Shenyang, China.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1999: He performs the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 as a last minute substitute with the Chicago Symphony. A star is born.
  • 2001: He makes his Carnegie Hall debut and sells out the Royal Albert Hall in his debut at the BBC Proms. Other acclaimed debuts follow.
  • 2006: He performs on the soundtrack for The Painted Veil and for the Chinese film The Banquet (music composed by Tan Dun).
  • 2008: His performance at the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games is watched by an estimated four billion people.
  • 2010: He is named official ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo and plays at its opening ceremony.

FUN FACTS

    • Media boy: Lang Lang has appeared on every major TV network and in a wide variety of news and lifestyle magazines, and has played for dozens of political dignitaries. He has promotional contracts worthy of a sports star: global brand ambassador of Sony Electronics, Audi Automobiles and with a model of black and gold Adidas sneakers. He is the only musician ever to have his name attached to a model of Steinway Pianos. He was also the ambassador of the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the Olympic Games, he’s played at the World Cup (2010) and the Euro Cup finals (2008)
    • Role model and evangelist: The Lang Lang International Music Foundation was created to further Lang Lang’s goals of inspiring the next generations of pianists, building audiences among the young through live performance, and furthering music education through technology. Lang Lang gives recitals for charitable causes, such as his 2008 UNICEF concert in Central Park, New York, and in under-served areas.
    • Early life: In his autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles, Lang Lang is remarkably honest about his struggle to live up to the expectations of his hyper-driven father who once, apparently seriously, suggested that his son commit suicide. Understandably, this put the 9-year-old off music, until his love was rekindled by his mother, a caring teacher, and Mozart’s music.
    • Rule buster: Lang Lang has bothered some music critics with his overt showmanship and his appearance, which includes a spiky hairdo and Versace-designed concert clothes.
    • Technology buff: Bay Area Lang Lang fans are well aware of the pianist’s interest in technology. At a San Francisco Symphony concert in 2010, he took a few minutes to play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee on an iPad.”

San Francisco Chronicle has published a review after Lang Lang’s performance on Thursday night (November 1, 2012).  Here’s what Joshua Knosma said:

“It only took Lang Lang a few minutes on Thursday night to start beating the stuffing out of a defenseless Steinway grand piano on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall.

Appearing with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony as soloist in Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, Lang could scarcely wait to ramp things up to turbo force. He sat patiently through the orchestra’s introduction, and then – bang! crash! – he burst into a frenzy of furious passagework and thunderous chords that barely let up for another half an hour.

This is Lang’s M.O., and there is certainly a kind of hyperkinetic appeal about it, if that’s the sort of thing that strikes your fancy. His playing isn’t just virtuosic, it’s meta-virtuosic – the only story it has to tell is the one about the pianist-hero who hits all the notes at top speed (and often top volume).

And for that purpose, it comes with all kinds of extraneous technical apparatus. During one rapid-fire passage for the right hand alone, Lang leaned his left hand behind him on the bench, to underscore exactly what was happening. He would dive-bomb onto the keyboard from a great height, then pull his hands away from a chord like so much exploding shrapnel.

Once in a while, he toned his performance down just enough to let some musical expressiveness seep through – the more intimate passages of the opening movement, for example, caught a certain dusky grace, and the slow movement boasted some winsome moments – but for the most part this was overheated stuff. The encore, Chopin’s “Minute” Waltz, barely registered as more than a blur of notes.

It’s hard to resist drawing a contrast with Yuja Wang, who had played Prokofiev’s Second Concerto with the Symphony the previous night (and joins them on their upcoming Asian tour). From a technical standpoint, the two pianists have equally dazzling gifts, but Wang uses her prodigious skills for musical purposes that go well beyond pure pyrotechnics.”

Here’s what I think:  I had watched Lang Lang’s live performance at San Francisco Symphony before.  I was sitting on the front orchestra, and my eyes could not move away from his facial and body expression.  It appeared to be too much for some music critics.  I think if it is his style, there is nothing bad about it.   In fact, in tonight’s performance, I found him a bit different in terms of his “overt showmanship”.  He has toned down a lot and I believe he listened to music critics’ criticism.  This time, I sat at the orchestra section with a very good view of his facial and finger movements.  What more can  you expect from such a super performance?  There was standing ovation twice, and Lang Lang did a short encore with a Chopin piece.

I also watched Yuja Wang before. No doubt she is very talented and will have a great future in her music career.  Lang Lang on the other hand, is already a super star.  Both have very different personality and style.  I would not like to make any comparison at all.  After all, I am only a regular music appreciator.   If I like what I hear and see, and enjoy the performance,  this is what matters to me.

I hope you all will have the chance to see Lang Lang live or on TV.  Whether you like him or not, you would agree with me that he is a true classical super star!

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