Lang Lang and Liberace
Went to see Lang Lang last night, the renowned Chinese pianist who, it seems, divides opinion. A rather sniffy review in The Telegraph was typical of Lang Lang detractors: style over substance, too much of a showman, etc.
One comment online amused me: “Lang Lang needs to remind himself that he is a Pianist (sic) and not an entertainer.”
Like, you can’t be both?
Me, I like a bit of style and showmanship and my musical ear is not so sophisticated that I can necessarily tell when it overshadows the substance. He sounded excellent to me: he played it all without either sheet music or wrong notes and that’s impressive to start with.
When I was a kid, there was still a place on TV for pianists as light entertainers. Bobby Crush was a a teenager who won “Opportunity Knocks” and was rather like Liberace in his twinkly campness. And what about Gladys “Mrs” Mills? She was a jolly piano-thumper, with dinner lady’s arms and a repertoire of end-of-pier singalongs.
Anyway, This (below) is Lang Lang on The One Show about a year ago. The really fast stuff (Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca) starts at around 7.50.
Last night, Lang Lang’s main piece was a Mozart concerto in C minor which sounded lovely, but he was more subdued than I was hoping. His encore was more to my taste: an impossibly fast version of Chopin’s Grande Valse Brilliante, with adornments aplenty, great leaps in the left hand. Add a few more rings on his fingers and grins at the audience and he could be a reincarnation of Liberace. There are those who would say that is a bad thing. Not I.
Here’s Liberace, from 1969.
And, just for fun, a six year old Lang Lang wannabe called Chung Chung:
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