Live in Vienna
lang lang
Sony 88697719029

The two faces of piano’s superstar are on display.

Lang Lang has an unfortunate reputation for being a young “star”, in the worst sense of the word. Prima facie, this glossy, 2-CD plus DVD package does little to alter that impression. But the audio is actually relatively sober, and reveals a mature musician beneath the bravado.

CD 1 is his first live recording of works by Beethoven. His reading of the Third Sonata is polished and measured, if a little honeyed. He is bold enough to follow it with the Appassionata. In the first movement, purely in terms of dynamic range the man they call “Bang Bang” is disappointingly demure, but his finale is scintillating.

CD 2 features some of Albeniz’s short works and Prokofiev’s Sonata, No 7.He starts the Prokofiev brilliantly. At about half a minute or so in, however, the rhythm falters, and the tempo drops off, almost as if he’d started too fast. I had visions of Madame Sousatzka slapping her ruler on the piano top, shouting “Tempo! Tempo!”

The second movement is fine; the Precipitato third draws squeals of delight from the crowd. All in all a great recital.

If only he’d stopped there... The three Chopin encores represent the showman of old. The crowd is rapt, but in their applause one can almost hear the footsteps of musicians leaving the hall.

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BEETHOVEN Live in Vienna (piano: Lang Lang)
3.5 out of 5
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