Monday, April 30, 2012

Lang Lang and Continuing Education

Lang Lang and "Continuing Education"

This week featured concerts with Chinese pianist, Lang Lang.  He performed the Bartok 2nd Piano Concerto with us.  This is a huge piece with lots of big chords and effects for the piano. 

It features a movement written only for winds, percussion and piano -- a rare instance in which the string section rests and can listen to the back half of the orchestra play. The second movement has music for strings, timpani and piano that is both mystical and ominous in mood.  A scherzo is embedded in the middle of this movement.  The last movement has a great rhythmic vitality.

Lang Lang played this piece brilliantly every night.  He has played with us at least twice before and it's been interesting to see the development in his artistry.

In our first collaboration, his playing was showy and his stage presence even more so.  In subsequent appearances he has toned down his gestures to make them more meaningful and less histrionic.  His musical interpretation has deepened correspondingly.

Perhaps some of this is simply due to maturity gained through greater experience, but I think there's something else at work here.

It's clear that Lang Lang has actively sought feedback on his playing from trusted mentors.  This week he took some time to coach a Mozart concerto with Franz Welser-Möst.  Several years ago he took part in a famous series of masterclasses given by renowned conductor and pianist, Daniel Barenboim.

Consider the humility and sheer guts this took!  Here is a world-class classical superstar (with his own Adidas shoes available online) who has a gigantic repertoire and has performed with the world's leading orchestras for years. 

In the videos below you can see and hear him perform the first movement of Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata in front of an audience on stage with Daniel Barenboim sitting next to him and turning his pages.  In the second video Barenboim offers his comments and criticism, plays examples from the Appassionata himself and coaches Lang Lang on the piece.

You can see Lang Lang absorb Barenboim's ideas and incorporate them immediately in his playing.  Take a few minutes and learn from these videos.  There are additional segments as well, since the class was a lengthy one.

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