Lang Lang

Live at Carnegie Hall

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On November 7, 2003, Lang Lang gave his debut recital at Carnegie Hall to great public excitement, but also to mixed critical reception. Some reviewers criticized Lang for his distracting mannerisms and his grandstanding. But this double-disc is unsatisfying on purely musical grounds, for Lang's interpretations are uneven, callow, and often heavy-handed. Either Lang was out of sorts that evening, or else he deliberately distorted his playing to favor bombast over genuine expression and refinement. On the positive side, Haydn's Sonata and Tan Dun's Eight Memories in Watercolor are most engaging, and feature the subtlest playing on the album. But Lang's performances of Schumann's Abegg Variations and Chopin's Nocturne are perfunctory and uncompelling, as if Lang's heart was not in them. Worse still, his renditions of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy and Liszt's Reminiscences of Don Giovanni are ham-fisted and noisy affairs -- the former due to insensitivity and the latter out of unabashed vulgarity. For light encores of little consequence, Lang played Schumann's Träumerei; the Competition of the Two Horses, with his father, Guo-ren Lang, performing on the voice-like erhu; and Liszt's hackneyed Liebesträume. Considering Lang's erratic performance and the recording's fluctuating volume levels, this album will be a serious disappointment for all but Lang's most devoted fans.

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