Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4

Lang Lang / Christoph Eschenbach

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Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4 Review

by James Leonard

Lang Lang, the Chinese super-virtuoso pianist, can do anything he wants with the piano. The question is: what does he want to do? In this Deutsche Grammophon coupling of Beethoven's First and Fourth piano concertos with Christoph Eschenbach leading the Orchestre de Paris, Lang plays the right pitches in the right rhythms -- and plays them with complete command and total control -- but everything else in his performances is up for grabs. Sometimes lines are legato; sometimes they're staccato. Sometimes dynamics are pianississimo; sometimes they're fortississimo. Sometimes tempos push forward; sometimes they pull back. Sometimes his right hand is louder than his left; sometimes it's the other way around. Sometimes the sustain pedal is pressed firmly to the floor; sometimes it's like the sustain pedal isn't there at all. The problem is not so much that Lang interprets the music; performers have the right and the obligation to interpret the music they play. The problem is that Lang's interpretations have passed willful and idiosyncratic and gone deep into self-indulgent. Aided and abetted by ace accompanist Christoph Eschenbach and supported and sustained by the accomplished Orchestre de Paris, Lang does whatever he wants with Beethoven's concertos, whether the results are convincing is up to the listener. Christian Leins and Arend Prohmann's recording from the Salle Pleyel in Paris is bright, clear, and deep.

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