Haydn, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Tchaikovsky & Balakirev

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Haydn,Rachmaninoff,Tchaikovsky & Balakirev
LABELS: Telarc
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Lang Lang
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Lang Lang (piano)
The 18-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang is a sensation, no doubt about that. Armed with a Horowitzian technique, offset by a Horowitzian delicacy, he can tackle anything in the repertoire with an apparently effortless aplomb which is almost unnervingly serene. His Haydn here is reminiscent of Horowitz’s Scarlatti: phenomenally subtle in its every inflection, impeccably articulated, and illuminated by a colouristic and dynamic palette which ranges from the almost inaudible to the forceful-but-never-strident. All of this is remarkable in the extreme, but does the music in Haydn’s case require such a lavish display of sensibility? Can it even survive it? To the first I’d say ‘no’, to the second, ‘just barely’. And for much of the Brahms, I’d say ‘no’ to both. The pianistic control is astonishing even when it is barely audible (which is often), and the extreme rhythmic freedom is deployed with precocious sophistication, but in this particular mix they come perilously close to presenting Brahms as a feline, neurasthenic ultra-Romantic of almost decadent sensuousness. And more’s the pity, since so much of the playing is deeply, ravishingly beautiful. In the Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Balakirev, who really were ultra-Romantics, all of the pianist’s most phenomenal qualities come together to quite staggering effect. A true poet, but never a barnstormer; heroic but never remotely macho; a dazzler who is never out to dazzle: this is a talent in a million. Jeremy Siepmann