Thursday, October 14, 2010

REVIEW: Lang Lang with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra


The atmosphere was very different. An HKPO concert on a Wednesday night, the Cultural Center Concert Hall was packed and there was applause between movements. Lang Lang definitely has the drawing power. Even the souvenir program for the October 13 show was glittering and thick with ads in the night with The Pride of China (title of the concert)… cringe…

Lang Lang performed a concerto in each half of the evening with a French piece preceding each, which is most probably there to showcase maestro Stephane Deneve’s “affinity to French music”. Opening the first half of the concert was Berlioz’s Roman Carnival, Op. 9… hmmm… let me put it this way, I wouldn’t mind the evening without it. The second half started with Faure’s Pelleas et Melisande Suite, Op. 80, now THIS was just beautifully elegant. The phrasing was delicate and the effect was refreshingly free of over-blown sentiment.

Lang Lang appropriately offered HIS Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15 in the first half followed by Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat, 5124. My biggest fear in attending a live performance is to witness a bland rendition that seems as if the artists have done it so many times that they stop thinking and feeling. A lot of young and/or Chinese artists tend to be technically competent but dull in interpretation. For Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Lang Lang made it his own. In fact, the piece sounded quite different that I am still trying to figure out whether I like it or not, and that is good! Lang Lang’s phenomenal control in offering clarity and subtlety was most apparent in Beethoven.

With Liszt, Lang Lang’s performance was right on. He went for it, pulled out all the stops and preyed on the keyboard that blended drama and poetry. I imagine some people may think that the performance was heavy-handed and flashy, but I believe that such a treatment was equally valid, especially when one saw how technically secured Lang Lang is and what he did in Beethoven.

For both concertos, Deneve tried to match the intensity point by point and succeeded. HKPO delivered a clean and even performance without the dramatics and theatrics of the conductor and soloist… very nice.

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At October 14, 2010 at 7:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came home from a most inspiring concert by the Korean pianist Jinsang Lee. Many of you may be scratching your head thinking this is not a household name. I originally had a ticket for Lang Lang's concert with the Hong Kong Philharmonic but decided instead to hear Mr lee’s performance at the City Hall with a quintet that consisted of players from the London Chamber Orchestra. I have to say, I am most happy that I did so.

It’s rare to find young musicians who play as soulfully and beautifully as Mr Lee. He projects a sound that is magically pure and so subtle in nuances that you don’t really know how it hits you. And it does hit, in such a spiritual way that you leave feeling blessed.

While it seems that most of Hong Kong’s music lovers would have all ventured over to the Cultural Center tonight to hear the wondrous Lang Lang , I was saddened that not more people could have heard the magical weaving of Mr Lee’s performance. There is no doubt Lang Lang is an incredible pianist with a talent unfathomable but somehow in the past few years he has lost his sincerity amongst his great success and commercialism. I do hope that he will drop back down to earth and play like he first played before all his fame and stature.

I think that is probably why I opted to hear Mr Lee instead. I miss that honesty in the artists presented today. Maybe everyone is out there trying to make a mark for themselves and feeling pressured to show off something that is different to just make a point. But Mr Lee just makes a point by being himself. Simple.

This week is the wonderful music fest , “The Joy of Music Festival” held by the Chopin Society of Hong Kong. All week long till Sunday night, there will be concerts at the City Hall. Up coming are some pianists who really are the masters of keyboard playing history. If you are a music lover in any sort, you have to venture down to hear the great, Pacal Roge, Peter Frankl and of course, Gary Graffman who also happens to be my piano teacher/mentor and Lang’s Lang’s! Sunday night will end with Alvaro Pierri , guitarist. The musicians of the London Chamber Orchestra are also delightful in their chamber music arrangements and collaborations.

I urge you to quickly go down and buy tickets to hear the rest of the great artists and enjoy music making in its purest form.

(written on night of Oct 13th)

At October 15, 2010 at 2:09 PM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

HI! Thank you for sharing your experience and I have to admit that a part of me wished that I was in Jinsang Lee's concert instead.

Lang Lang was never a popular choice amongst my friends for the reasons you mentioned. But then, it is so much easier to subscribe by series rather than individual concert... not to mention about the 30% discount! With our subscription, then we are pretty much committed to HKPO performances very early on for the whole year.

I am fully aware of "The Joy of Music Festival" by the Chopin Society of Hong Kong. I have a lot of respect for this organization and I have attended some of their programs and so far have really like each one of them. Its Chairman Andrew Freris is an inspiration to me. I still remember a couple of years ago listening to him talk about world economy in a conference in the morning and was so surprised to see him giving a preamble in the evening in a concert hosted by the Chopin Society.

Your comment has made me think about why despite being aware of the festival and having had such good experiences with the concerts organized by the society, how come I was not so excited about it... the rational part of me says that I was very busy at work (have been going home early in the morning to have a snooze just to be back in the office at around 7am for almost a week), that I have Lang Lang concert in Hong Kong and Dido and Aeneas in Macau to go to... the irrational part of me though points to the logo and design of their publicity materials. I don't understand why the society has adopted the "light" or "flame" as a visual cue. It reminds me of Amnesty International, and that reminds me of sufferings. Their website and brochures are black in color... not exactly a very joyous color... and totally negates the "joy" in the name of the festival... I know I am being irrational, but my enjoyment of arts are never rational anyway, it is in writing about them that I try to rationalize why I like or dislike them :-)

Thank you for sharing and really, I should push myself to go to one of the concerts.

At August 21, 2013 at 4:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is easy to whine that two big shows clashed.
HOWEVER, LL had NOT appeared in Hong Kong's concert halls openly since 2007 or 2008.
So, HIS double concerti concert that night was VERY MUCH anticipated.

At August 21, 2013 at 4:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may wish to know that Gary Grafmann was in LL's concert with HKPHIL. That night happened to be his birthday.


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