WORKS: Live in Vienna: Beethoven: Sonatas Nos 3 & 23 (Appassionata); Albéniz: Iberia Book 1; Prokofiev: Sonata No. 7; plus Chopin encores
PERFORMER: Lang Lang (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697719012
Lang Lang has got so typecast that it’s good to see him venturing beyond his comfort zone.
The opening movement of Beethoven’s Op. 2 No. 3 comes with a sweetly cantabile touch, but without the needle-sharp crispness it requires: in effect, he tames it. But what he does with the Adagio is magical – each note is fastidiously weighted, with a delicate bloom.
The Scherzo is on the decorous side, but the concluding Allegro assai breaks joyously free. The first movement of his Appassionata is spaciously conceived, and he brings a properly Beethovenian authority to the variations of the slow movement, before segueing gracefully into a whirlwind finale.
With the Albéniz he goes native, finding a quintessentially Spanish poetry in ‘Evocación’, beautifully-characterised dance-rhythms in ‘El Puerto’, and an atmosphere you can almost smell in the Corpus Christi procession as it approaches, then fades away into the distance. The pianism here is intoxicatingly seductive: he finds a different touch each time, with his colour changing constantly.
With Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7 he again finds the right idiom, making grim sense of the Allegro inquieto and giving its parody Pioneer march a frenzied excitement. Whether or not one subscribes to the view that the finale is a portrait of totalitarianism, one has to admire the ferocious efficiency with which Lang Lang presents its compulsive destructiveness.
But the chief appeal of this CD lies in the fact that it’s pulsatingly live, with the Chopin encores delivered to tumultuous applause. Lang Lang dares, and wins. Michael Church