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Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21 (1829/30) [32:21]
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 [38:12]
Étude in E major, Op. 10/3 Tristesse [4:48]
Lang Lang (piano)
Wiener Philharmoniker/Zubin Mehta
rec. June 2008, Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Wien, Austria (Concerto, Étude); August 2005, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Harburg, Hamburg, Germany (Sonata).
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4790964 [76:12]

I find that those who criticise the playing of Lang Lang the most are often those who have not actually seen him perform in concert or recital. They accuse him of throwing himself around the piano and playing far too loud. When I saw Lang Lang the season before last in Manchester he did none of this. In fact I was struck by his humility as well as his palpable artistic excellence and tasteful playing. For me he communicates a charisma that I have seen only rarely and then only in the likes of Bernstein and Barenboim. On this disc he has turned again to the music of Chopin with a programme of what seem to be recordings made in studio conditions.
 
The opening work is the Piano Concerto No. 2, commenced in 1829 when Chopin was a teenager and still living in Poland. It was Chopin who premièred it as soloist at a concert at Warsaw in 1830. Lang Lang’s general control is splendid and displays a broad range of tone and dynamic. In the Larghetto his lightness of touch feels refined and creates a near ethereal quality. The playing from the Wiener Philharmoniker under Zubin Mehta is as sympathetic as we have come to expect from this orchestra.
 
Next comes the four movement Piano Sonata No. 3, written in the Summer of 1844 and bearing a dedication to Countess Emilie de Perthuis. Aged 34, Chopin was at his creative peak although it was a distressing time as his father had died in the Spring. In the opening Allegro maestoso there’s sparkling playing and in the following Scherzo a quicksilver approach. It’s all played with such panache and assurance. In the Largo the tenderness of his playing has an air of peace and tranquillity on the surface with a slight undercurrent of melancholy and anxiety. A strong sense of drama and excitement in the Presto:Finale has one on the point of gasping for breath.

The Étude in E major, Op. 10 No. 3 was composed in 1832 and is also known by the title Tristesse (Sadness). Lyrical in character with a slow cantabile melody, it certainly could not be described as a mere technical exercise. I was struck by Lang Lang’s glorious legato playing which is imbued with poise and sensibility. Especially convincing is the stormy central section that he plays with unforced sincerity. 
The recording engineers have excelled with the sound quality of this release.
 
This CD stands as further evidence of Lang Lang’s deep empathy with Chopin’s music. This is combined with a rare and innate ability to draw the listener into the composer’s compelling yet bitter-sweet sound-world.
 
Michael Cookson