It seems Lang Lang is substantially more at home in the recital hall
than he is when appearing with orchestra. His recent Mendelssohn
First Concerto in late April was a disappointment, yet just weeks later
here he was in his element at the Wigmore giving a memorable and varied
recital. The hall was absolutely stuffed, the atmosphere expectant.
To his credit, Lang Lang delivered in no uncertain terms.
Schumannís Abegg Variations,
Op. 1, performed to the accompaniment of rain on the Wigmoreís roof,
followed the composerís shifting moods perfectly. Sudden emotional juxtapositions
were perfectly placed, decorations were lovingly presented and the capricious
contrasted with the suave. There was not even the slightest hint of
warming in to the recital: the audience was invited in to Schumannís
world with immediate effect.
Traditionally, Haydn would have
been the logical starting point. Here, the late C major (Hob. XVI:50),
second on the programme, acted as a breath of fresh air. Another Haydn
Sonata on his Telarc
recital disc was good, but this seemed even fresher. Lang Lang was unafraid
to use a large tonal range to articulate Haydnís structure. His Adagio
was emotive, but within its own limits, while the finale was capricious
but with a sense of drama. Here there were infectious high spirits (in
the first movement he seemed to be trying to emulate Brendelís witty
way with this composer, but not quite succeeding).
Gestures spoke volumes in the
Haydn. In Schubertís Wanderer Fantasy Lang Lang seemed to want
to take this to extremes, though, so that they occasionally degenerated
into mere point making in the first movement. This was a grand and sonorous
reading in places, though, the lower registers lushly rich in the Adagio,
contrasting with the Presto scherzo, which seemed to want to take off
and dance at any given moment. The strong finale veered towards the
virtuoso, giving hints of what was to come.
There is no doubting Lang Langís
devotion to the music of China; he even had a hand in revisions to Tan
Dunís Eight Memories in Watercolour, Op. 1 of 1978. Some of these
pieces are based on folk melodies from Dunís native Hunan. They make
a convincing set, often coming across as Debussy with more authentically
Oriental overtones, although the last, ĎSunrainí is closer to a Chinese
equivalent to Coplandís Rodeo. Perhaps the post-Debussian sheen
of some of the pieces made an intended link to Chopinís D flat Nocturne,
Op. 27 No. 2, with its proto-Debussian explorations in the misty, fantastical
coda. Lang Lang was flowing and dreamy here, his voice-leading carefully
considered, but he did give the impression of being Ďoutsideí Chopin,
looking in. Perhaps his mind was on the crippling difficulties of the
The Réminiscences de
Don Juan, S418 has a distinctly limited playership. Lang Lang seemed
to relish anything and everything Liszt threw at him, though: it was
as if he had saved the full force of his playing, both dynamically and
virtuosically, for here. The invocation of the Donís dark world was
visceral, the low and crowded sonorities much more than empty rhetoric.
Perhaps the ĎLà ci daremí duet was too serious, but there was
plenty of delicacy. The accuracy was remarkable, the identification
with this side of Lisztís persona all but complete. The semi-standing
ovation was well deserved, of that there is no doubt.