The Chopin Album
Lang Lang’s Chopin Album offers plenty for his fans to appreciate, while also providing ammunition for his detractors, although perhaps not as much as they might expect. While some pianists are inhibited by the sterile environment of the recording studio, here it arguably tempers Lang Lang’s predilection for interpretative garishness. For the most part the playing is warm and communicative, beautifully shaped, luminously projected and boldly coloured – probably too bold and luminous for those who prefer more aristocratic refinement and reserve in their Chopin but without the exaggerated, showy style so many have found off‑putting.
The Op. 25 Etudes contain many fine things. The leaps of the A minor No. 4 are wonderfully crisp, while the timing and voicing of the central section of No. 5 made me smile and immediately replay it. Not everything is so successful: the swooning rubatos in No. 1 soon pall and in the final two Etudes’ technical assurance takes precedence over musical substance. Best is the slow No. 7, where the playing is heartfelt, unhackneyed, ravishingly detailed and deeply touching. No cheap shots here. There is beauty elsewhere, too, in the three Nocturnes and Andante spianato, all played with a seductive tonal sheen, and sparkle in the two Waltzes and the Grande polonaise, although the latter misses its essential nobility.
The bonus DVD contains some interesting early footage, but also offers many examples of the compromised artist Lang Lang too readily becomes.