A “Regal” Lang Lang performs magnificently in Manchester

Beethoven, Albéniz, Prokofiev: Lang Lang, Bridgwater Hall International Concert Series,  Manchester, 27.5.2011 (MC)

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.3 in C major Op.2 No.3
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor Op.57 ‘Appassionata’
Albéniz: Iberia, book 1
Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat major, Op. 83

Editor’s Note:  This is the same programme as the concert given in Cardiff – and reviewed by Glyn Pursglove – on May 29th.

Probably the best known classical musician in the world, the phenomenon that is Lang Lang hit Manchester. Would the young pianist live up to all the hype or would the performance be a damp squid? In short my answer is that Lang Lang was quite magnificent. It was great to see a full house especially for a recital with a large number of young people present too. But Lang Lang is certainly no ordinary performer. Attired in a smart dark dress suit he entered the stage with a confident poise of humility, acknowledging the audience’s applause to several points of the hall with an almost regal arm gesture.

Lang Lang’s chosen programme was an exciting one with the first half comprising of two popular Beethoven sonatas. A particular favourite of mine the four movement Piano Sonata No.3 in C major, Op.2 No.3 forms part of a set of three sonatas that Beethoven dedicated to his former teacher Haydn. Right from the opening bars Lang Lang demonstrated that he was completely at home with the immediate glittering appeal of the score. The keyboard colours he obtained in the Adagio was remarkable with playing that fired the imagination. Packed with excitement and surprises the playing of the Finale was given a performance of majestic assurance.

Lang Lang surmounted the challenges of the famous Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor Op.57 known as the Appassionata with considerable aplomb. I loved the sense of drama in the two stormy outside movements flanking the calm Andante that was never allowed to flag. Here the soloist intelligently drew out a high level of alluring emotion resisting any temptation for exaggeration.

Not an unusual selection for piano recitals we were treated to the first book of Albéniz’s Iberia. For a pianist as imaginative as Lang Lang these three pieces were a splendid choice. Penetrating deep into the soul of the music’s Spanish character I was struck by the glorious range of tone colours achieved.

Lang Lang concluded his recital with an exciting change of mood. One of the ‘war sonatas’ Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat major was composed in the midst of the uncertainties and horrors of wartime Soviet Russia. As an ending to the score the incredible potent force of the tempestuous Toccata is an audience pleaser in the right hands. No problem here as the more notes Lang Lang plays the more it seems to inspire him.

This was a truly wonderful recital. Lang Lang is a great artist and I eagerly look forward to his return.

Michael Cookson