- Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23
- Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25
"Don't record the standard repertory unless you have something new to say" is the common refrain of critics these days. Well, there's no doubt that Lang Lang -- the young, Chinese-born pianist whose baby face belies a powerhouse virtuoso technique -- has a unique view of these two popular concertos. The Tchaikovsky, in particular, is given a very personal reading in which every phrase seems to be reconsidered afresh. Tempos are on the slow side, and there is a focus on detail that puts this account somewhat outside the interpretive mainstream. Yet, somehow, it works, partly because Lang Lang has such a sensitive partner in Daniel Barenboim on the podium. Barenboim elicits some glorious pianissimo playing from the Chicago Symphony to match Lang Lang's expressive delicacy. But not to worry, the big moments are given their due. In the Tchaikovsky, one might not expect such a light touch, but the Mendelssohn demands one, and Lang Lang's quicksilver performance is remarkably sure-footed. The quiet playing is exquisite (and, again, there's lots of it), but it is the rhythmic buoyancy that impresses most here. Lang Lang will undoubtedly refine his views of both concertos as his career progresses, but this disc is evidence of a remarkably individual and refined musical imagination at work.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lang Lang showboats on TV and DVD, but artistically he delivers little "bang for the buck". He favors ornamentation and technical embellishments at all costs, often reducing the original score to a muddled mess. Sonically, Barenboim contributes little in terms of warmth and light. The DGG engineering gives little emphasis to the orchestra, often recessed as compared to the often clattery sound of Lang Lang's playing. His heavy handed embellishments especially in the finale's main theme of the Tchaikovsky give it a moody, irritated phrasing. The Tchaikovsky ends up being agitated, while the Mendelssohn is played with a vapid and flat style. Lang Lang plays all too quietly, while the andante in the second movement lacks tonal variety. Altogether, quite uninspiring and pedantic for this listener's tastes. The listener should not have to submit his/her auditory senses to technical bombast before compromising on something that is at its best, dull and lifeless.