Lang Lang Thread

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pianoman
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Lang Lang Thread

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There have been stranger films made, but not many . . .
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This was made in 2010 as a joint venture between Poland and China to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Chopin. I don't think it was released in the US, but you can stream it on Amazon.com. Lang Lang in a serious Magic Asian role as a genie pianist who helps Heather Graham, an ambitious professional mother trying to close a deal on her "dream home," not stress out as much and pay more attention to her kids.

This film is structurally quite original. After a short introduction in which Graham brings her two kids to a Lang Lang recital while negotiating a Blackberry smartphone, it breaks into a 25 minute stop-motion music video of excerpts from Chopin's Etudes with no dialogue. This, I suppose, represents the recital. When it ends, Graham walks on stage to look for her kids and runs into Lang Lang himself, who directs Graham to peer into a telescope mounted on the piano, which hurls graham into an adventure that echoes the stop-motion short film you just watched.

Graham flies around on a concert grand looking for her kids, who are flying around on the flapping deconstructed grand piano from the animated short. Lang Lang first appears as a reflection in the fallboard and music stand of Graham's flying piano, which is a neat effect (he even plays in the reflection and the keys match up!). Later he turns into an apparition sitting next to Graham, and later still turns into flesh and blood. There is a spinning wheel on the "Flying Machine" with the places that Chopin lived and visited in his short life, which the children use to navigate to different locales in Europe: Vienna, Paris, Poland, etc. The narrative of Chopin's biography is interspersed with one-liners from Graham and a visually rich surrealist landscape, all set to Chopin's music played by Lang Lang.

I have always been somewhat cool on Lang Lang. I know the hype and the criticism. Sometime around 2005-06 I saw him perform the Tchaikovsky 1st and it made almost no impression on me whatsoever. I have listened to a couple of his CDs, but never found anything I felt I could really defend. I thought the recordings used for this film were probably the best Lang Lang I've been exposed to, and I will probably buy his Chopin disc sometime and give it a whirl. It is clear that Lang Lang doesn't lack technique. He has complete control, he can play soft, he can voice-lead, he can play runs with articulation. If anything, the problem people have with Lang Lang is that he is too eager to show that he can do all these things. He doesn't know how to hold back. If you ask ten aficionados what their favorite part of their favorite performance of their favorite piano piece is, they will probably say the part where the pianist holds the climax or goes into a sudden pianissimo. With Lang Lang, you will get about 3-4 "favorite" parts in each two-measure phrase. If only he could figure out that you can't eat ice cream for every meal.

The best part of this film are the jokes. At one point, in a particularly trying moment for Graham, she blurts impatiently: "Enough with the stupid faces, this is serious!" (Is Lang Lang capable of self-depracating humor?) During the Revolutionary Etude, Graham says: "I think I've heard this one before." The moment that Graham's Blackberry falls off the piano is played perfectly--this is obviously a commentary on contemporary life that the filmmakers worked on. At the end of the journey, the kids land the Flying Machine on a monument in Poland (I think) and turn into the statue. To help them, Lang Lang reminds Graham that Chopin never forgot the dances of his native land, and Graham goes into a routine. "If this ends up on Youtube you're history," she says. Jokes, jokes.

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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http://news.asiaone.com/news/lifestyle/ ... -still-top
Lang Lang still on top

Chen Nan
Monday, Jun 29, 2015

The darling of China's classical music has a busy year ahead, with many concerts and recordings in the works. Chen Nan reports.

It's 9 pm at a five-star hotel in Beijing. Lang Lang is running late for an interview, but his agent explains that the delay is because he is busy playing the piano. He sat down to practice as soon as he arrived in the capital from Shanghai.

Ten minutes later, he arrives in the hotel room. Dressed casually, the pianist says that despite his tight schedule, he tries to practice two hours every day.

"The biggest challenge as a pianist is not practicing enough. It's important to keep thinking and analysing in practice," he tells China Daily.

Lang Lang is one of the biggest stars in the world of classical music. He has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic 35 times, the Vienna Philharmonic 36 times and with some top American orchestras more than 100 times. He has also performed with musicians such as jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and heavy-metal band Metallica. (When did this happen???)

If it can be done, the Chinese pianist has done it, and all he wants to do is continue to break new ground.

On June 14, Lang Lang performed at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations at Renmin University of China in Beijing. He also turned 33 on that day.

In 2012, Lang Lang made a promise to himself that he would always spend his birthday playing the piano in a special way.

Sony Music also released a DVD, a recording of two recitals he gave in November 2013 at London's Royal Albert Hall, as a gift to his fans in China.

The tickets to the shows sold out within 48 hours. The pianist played a two-part programme of Mozart and Chopin as well as eight encores.

"Sitting in the middle of the venue, I felt like a boxer or a gladiator with the audience surrounding me, standing up, waving their hands and cheering," he recalls, his eyes sparkling with excitement.

So far, the pianist has performed at the Royal Albert Hall 18 times since he made an acclaimed BBC Proms debut there. A music critic for the British newspaper The Times wrote: "Lang Lang took a sold-out Royal Albert Hall by storm. This could well be history in the making."

On April 20 and 22 this year, the pianist performed at the venue again and debuted a piece of his own, entitled Lang Lang Waltz, which he wrote at age 15. He composed the work soon after he studied in the United States in 1997, and it reflects the influence that period had on his music.

"I like recording beautiful tunes in my phone when I practice. Maybe one day, that material will turn into my compositions," he says.

"I get inspired when I travel, such as the glittering lake of Switzerland and the cities I have never been to," he adds, mentioning one performance that he looks forward to is the Changbai Mountain Forest Music Festival in Jilin province.

Running through August this year, the festival will see the pianist perform amid mountains, rivers and a waterfall on Aug 28.

Before that, Lang Lang will fly to Paris and record a new album at Versailles, which will be released in October this year. The album will feature works including the full performance of Tchaikovsky's Seasons, from January through December, and Chopin's four scherzos.

"No pianist ever performed in the Palace of Versailles. I like doing something which has never been done before," he says.

For the pianist, who has an ever-ready smile and cheerful energy in public, the pressure is always high.

Lang Lang began playing the piano at age 3 and moved from his hometown, Shenyang, Liaoning province, to Beijing to pursue his music study accompanied by his father, Lang Guoren, who is known as a typical "tiger parent".

In 1997, he went on to study in the US, where he met his mentor Gary Graffman at Curtis Institute of Music. He had his breakthrough at age 17 when he was called to replace Andre Watts and performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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Lang Lang going to France this year . . .

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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Lang Lang is in the first edition of the Youtube series "When Professional Pianists Play on the Street." He plays part of Chopin etude Op. 25 No. 11 and a chunk of Rach Third on a painted upright in the middle of what looks like a high school campus. I think its moments like this that show Lang Lang in the best light: an essentially unpretentious pianist willing to interact with anyone and put on a show. Lang Lang is 4:06 to 7:05.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlkTJgpn-pM

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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Finally the Metallica/Lang Lang collaboration surfaces :D

Lang Lang joined the band for a recent performance in Beijing. Here is video of the collaboration:
https://youtu.be/UojBZeWEV2c
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And here is Metallica by themselves playing a newer song to a ravenous Beijing audience:
https://youtu.be/x0O7iBvYtPw
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And here is the long lost Grammy performance from three years ago:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3K9e7pP24Y
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http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/metall ... lang-lang/
METALLICA: Official Video Recap Of Beijing Concert Feat. Chinese Concert Pianist LANG LANG

February 20, 2017

An official video recap of METALLICA's January 18 concert at LeSports Center in Beijing, China can be seen below. Also available is footage of the band performing the song "Creeping Death" at the same show.

As previously reported, METALLICA was joined by Lang Lang during Beijing gig.

As expected, the Chinese concert pianist played METALLICA's classic song "One" from the "…And Justice For All" album.
METALLICA previously performed the track with Lang Lang in January 2014 at the 56th annual Grammy Awards.

In announcing its collaboration with Lang Lang at the Beijing concert, METALLICA called their joint appearance at the Grammy Awards three years ago "one of the most creative, unique performances of our career."

Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich told ABC News Radio about how METALLICA's collaboration with Lang Lang came about: "METALLICA's manager was in China and he met with a guy who presents Lang Lang there, and they just started talking about it. Independently, I actually had called [METALLICA's] manager and said, 'Look, we're interested in you in the Grammys this year,' and the first thing out of his mouth was, 'How about us and Lang Lang?'"

"Somehow the METALLICA team had this great idea to work together," Lang Lang told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

"The Grammys are basically a stage for synthesizing music together. It's a perfect stage for musical friends to be united."

He added: "They were such cool people and I had a wonderful time working with them.

"Now everywhere I go, particularly in America, everyone is talking about it," Lang Lang said. "Even checking into a place, going through customs, people say, 'Wow, you played really great!'"

During the rehearsals for the Grammy Awards, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich told Artisan News about playing with Lang Lang: "Well, I would like to think that on a broader scale that music is music. We have a tendency in METALLICA to not look much beyond that in terms of definitions. But, obviously, he's a very talented musician, he's a very dynamic musician, he projects himself very well. I mean, when he plays, he's really full of energy and he's got a lot of kind of showmanship and kind of energy that protrudes off the stage and right into people's hearts and souls. So I would like to think that it's a good collaboration."

METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett told Rolling Stone that the band's performance at the Grammy Awards was "completely insane." He explained, "Lang Lang has interjected himself into the song in a way I don't think anyone else has ever done in the course of our career. He's playing major parts of the song. He's playing through the melody."

Hammett told The Pulse Of Radio that the song's arrangement highlighted Lang Lang's playing without changing the song. "We're not lightening up the song just for him," he said. "We're still hanging onto all the heavy parts and it's gonna be amazing. He's just an amazing pianist, and at one point he's, like, weaving in and out of my guitar solo and playing parts of my guitar solo with me. That's interesting. I've never, ever experienced that ever before with anyone we've ever played with."

"One" was the first single released from METALLICA's 1988 album "…And Justice For All", becoming the first song from the band to gain substantial commercial radio airplay. It was also the basis for the first music video the group ever did.

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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Lang Lang is no longer on the market, ladies!! Lang married German-Korean pianist Gina Alice Redlinger over the weekend:

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https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/arts-cul ... -redlinger
So just who is Lang Lang’s new wife? Born in 1994 in Wiesbaden, Germany, Gina Alice Redlinger is a fellow pianist and composer.

The German-Korean beauty, who is 12 years younger than the groom, started to learn piano when she was just four years old. Three years later, she was put under the wing of German pianist Irina Edelstein. She began performing in public in Germany at the age of eight.

Her other piano teachers have included László Simon from Hungary, German pianist Klaus Hellwig and American master Gary Graffman – who has also been Lang Lang’s teacher.

Fluent in multiple languages, including English, German, Korean, French and Chinese, the graduate of the University of Music and Theatre in Hamburg, Germany, gave her first solo piano recital in 2009 at the age of 15.

She has given concerts at the Berliner Philharmonie in Berlin and collaborated with various orchestras in China, including the Shenyang Symphony Orchestra and the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. She has also written three original pieces.

Redlinger met Lang Lang in Berlin a few years ago and has since performed around the world with his International Music Foundation. He set up the foundation in 2008 to inspire the next generation to pursue music.

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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Those wondering if Lang Lang's first Beethoven album contains any noticeable increase in vigor since his recent betrothal to German-Korean pianist Gina Alice Redlinger will be disappointed to know that all of the material on this disc is drawn from live performances from 2010. This is not a proclamation of a bold, new direction from the much-maligned Chinese pianist. They are releasing these performances to capitalize on the Beethoven 2020 Sestercentennial.

Having said that, these recordings, like most of Lang Lang, are not bad. Not anywhere near as bad as the precious American classical music community would have you believe. Lang plays the score as it is written. While it may not be inspired, it is also not stuffy or pedantic. Lang's approach is to learn the score faithfully and perform in the moment. It does not appear that, for him, Beethoven would require anything different.

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Re: Lang Lang Thread

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First, there is a Lang Lang documentary in the works, directed by Ron Howard: https://deadline.com/2020/09/ron-howard ... /#comments

But the NYT classical music critic Anthony Tommasini has written a very negative review of Lang's recording of the Goldberg Variations. Tommasini compares Lang's version to recent versions by Jeremy Denk and Beatrice Rana, with audio clips provided in the article for comparison (courtesy of Spotify; it's about time music criticism did this). His main criticism is that Lang takes too many liberties with the music. He considers Lang's playing to be "fussy and affected," but I would counter that the style of playing he seems to be advocating for--austere and minimalist--is often just as affected. Anyway, the article is serious music criticism. My own review of the Goldberg album is forthcoming.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/04/arts ... tions.html
Lang Lang: The Pianist Who Plays Too Muchly

On a new recording of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, the superstar artist stretches the music beyond taste.


By Anthony Tommasini
Oct. 4, 2020

. . .

These two comments suggest why — for all his playing’s uncanny virtuosity, wondrous control of shadings and sound and unbridled urgency — I and many others have long found Mr. Lang’s performances overindulgently expressive and marred by exaggerated interpretive touches.

What does it mean to feel the notes come from your heart? How do you do that? And if a melody in a short piece keeps returning, as in “Für Elise,” why must it be played differently each time? That approach risks making the music seem mannered, even manipulated. The comment suggests that it doesn’t occur to Mr. Lang that maintaining the essential contour, flow and character of a wistful melody like this one might actually enhance the expressive impact of the music. And for all the soft-spoken beauty of his performance, it comes across as fussy and affected.

My frustrations with Mr. Lang also apply to his latest recording, which includes two accounts of Bach’s monumental “Goldberg” Variations. One was made in a studio in Berlin; the other was recorded live in St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, where Bach worked for the last 27 years of his life. I focused on the studio version, which Mr. Lang said he prefers in a recent interview with New York Times — though he added that he likes the spontaneity of the live performance.

Mr. Lang’s seriousness of purpose permeates his “Goldbergs.” Still, indulgences appear from the first measures of the tranquil opening Aria, which provides the bass line (and harmonic patterns) from which Bach generated 30 variations. Mr. Lang takes a restrained tempo and plays with warm, subdued sound. His execution of clipped rhythmic figures and embellishments is somewhat pronounced, though within the bounds of Bachian style.

But Mr. Lang can’t resist tugging and pulling at phrases. The result is that the Aria lacks flow and shape. Moment after moment, Mr. Lang keeps you hanging, and hanging. This opening section has never seemed so long.

What does it mean to play expressively? Compare classical music to film. Film buffs recognize overacting in a flash, and won’t put up with it. Mr. Lang, I think, does the equivalent of overacting in music; his expressivity tips over into exaggeration, even vulgarity. He has won ardent fans for the sheer brilliance and energy of his playing. But many also respond to moments of deep expression, when he sure seems to be doing something to the music, almost always reflected in his physical mannerisms.
. . .

Taste is, of course, a subjective thing. But there is reason to question Mr. Lang’s. Yes, a melody can be sung or played with expressive touches by bending a phrase, prolonging a note, delaying an entry.

But even music that seems lyrically flowing, with melodic lines that spin and weave — like the slow movement of Bach’s “Italian” Concerto, or any Chopin nocturne — have an underlying structure, much like the underlying metrical structure of a poem. Even prose unfolds in clauses, sentences and paragraphs. The risk of stretching music — especially to the degree that a sense of pulse becomes weak — is that the shape of a phrase, a passage or an entire section becomes entirely lost in a profusion of expressivity.
. . .

Variation 3, for example, is the first of the periodic contrapuntal canons in the score, with one line followed a couple of beats later by its echo. The two lines intertwine gracefully above a steady bass pattern of eighth notes that soon becomes more animated. Mr. Lang takes a slow tempo and keeps stretching the mingling lines as they flow over the bass. But the playing is so yanked around rhythmically that the music sounds labored. He makes things even fussier by a constant use of crescendos that swell and subside, like a squeeze box.
. . .

Mr. Lang fares better in the faster, more pulsing variations. But even in these — for example the 10th, a bracing four-voice fughetta — he can’t help himself. On the surface this is bright, crystalline playing. Yet Mr. Lang seems determined to project each voice with emphatic clarity. The music winds up feeling confusingly complicated. The way he punches out accents is almost pummeling. The four voices come out clearly, but much more naturally, in Ms. Rana’s spirited yet restrained, nuanced performance.

The 26th Variation is a whirlwind of spiraling passagework that tests a pianist’s technique. Not surprisingly, Mr. Lang dispatches it effortlessly at a breathless tempo. But so does Ms. Rana, who plays with wondrous lightness and sparkle, yet uncanny poise, which actually enhances the excitement: You listen in awe, wondering how she can bring out both qualities at once.

The sublime 25th Variation, a slow, achingly lyrical rumination with passages that explore bold realms of chromatic harmony, invites a performer to play with brooding expressivity. But Mr. Lang’s performance is so contorted I find it almost unlistenable. Both Ms. Rana and Mr. Denk play the music eloquently in seven minutes or less. Mr. Lang’s lugubrious account clocks in at over 10 minutes.

It’s like he’s attempting to show us how deeply he feels the music, to prove that it’s truly coming from his heart. But as a listener I don’t care about his feelings; I care about mine. He has to make this music touch me, not himself.

Mr. Lang brought enormous dedication to his “Goldbergs” project. Yet in an admiring 1940 review of the distinguished pianist Josef Lhevinne, Virgil Thomson wrote that “any authoritative execution derives as much of its excellence from what the artist does not do as from what he does.” Mr. Lang surely does too much.

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