Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Liu Yang

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COMPOSERS: Liu Yang,Rachmaninoff,Scriabin
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Lang Lang (piano); St Petersburg PO/Yuri Temirkanov
As one of the summits of the literature for virtuoso pianists, Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto often receives tempestuous, high-voltage treatment – Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich are memorable for tirelessly stoking the fires of volcanic impetuosity. By contrast, Lang Lang offers a resolutely poetical performance. The swirling garlands of figuration with which he adorns the orchestra’s restatement of the main subject – unusual in that he resists the urge to show impatience and temperament – are merely the first notable touch in an interpretation that seems utterly natural and musical without adopting obvious solutions. I particularly enjoyed his account of the second movement, in which moments of passion, delicacy and impishness unite to form a coherent, satisfying statement. At this stage of his career, Lang Lang’s essence is an ability to offer a convincing interpretation without apparent calculation. That said, and even though Lang Lang succeeds in making the work sound like important music, the result is a little tamer than I find ideal, especially in the first movement. Among alternatives, Argerich’s playing is astonishing, but her performance emerges from the old-fashioned soloist-plus-accompaniment mould. Those who prefer the soloist to interact with the orchestra rather than to drag it unceremoniously along might find the Volodos/Levine account a powerful, beautifully recorded synthesis of the approaches adopted by Argerich and Lang Lang. The Scriabin Études that fill out Lang Lang’s disc reveal confidence, joie de vivre and largely reliable technique, but don’t always tap into the decadent rapture at the core of Scriabin’s style. David Breckbill