Lang Lang

Live in Vienna

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This Lang Lang disc presents a live performance, a recital at the very citadel of musical conservatism, the Musikvereinsaal in Vienna. The pianist must have taken it as a special challenge, for he altered his usual repertoire somewhat and toned down his crowd-pleasing flamboyant ways. Not that they disappear entirely; the booklet is adorned with pictures of Lang lifting his arms above the keyboard, gazing skyward, and so on. But half the program is devoted to Beethoven, not Lang's usual style, and the two sonatas heard here, one of them the Piano Sonata No. 23 in F sharp minor, Op. 57, "Appassionata," are his first Beethoven sonata recordings. The pieces from Book One of Albéniz's Iberia are given rather restrained treatment, and only with the Chopin Polonaise, Op. 53, "Heroic," and Grande Valse brillante No. 2, Op. 34/1, does he really cut loose. Nothing about the Beethoven is going to shake either Lang's supporters or his detractors loose from their positions, but it must be said that he in no way overdoes the "Appassionata," and that the performance of the Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2/3, is fresh and quite distinctive; Lang uses his technical facility to breeze through the piece's spiky passagework and gives it a confident, breezy quality -- that, as it happens, is also the most attractive quality of Lang's playing in general. Lang's fans can feel confident that they'll enjoy his effort to conquer the stately old city of Vienna. Notes by James Jolly, in English only, consist largely of spoken commentary by Lang Lang himself.

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