Lang Lang / Simon Rattle / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Prokofiev 3; Bartók 2

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Lang Lang's reputation as a flamboyant, even pugilistic, pianist precedes him, and his repertoire certainly reflects his flashy, muscular style of playing. Hearing him in Sergey Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major and Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2, one will be confirmed in the belief that he is best in hard-hitting and resilient pieces with strong rhythms, loud dynamics, and bravura passagework. This is not to say he is insensitive or incapable of playing gently and delicately at soft levels; for proof that he has finesse in quieter music, listen to the slow movements of these concertos. But Lang Lang is strongest in the outer movements of these works, and the more percussive and energetic the soloist's part, the better he comes off. Backed by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, Lang Lang has a conductor and an orchestra that can push him along and challenge him to play in top form, and the combined efforts of everyone involved make this recording a success. Lang Lang's fans already know what to expect of this CD, so the only people who might be disappointed by the performances will be those who expected something romantic or sentimental, which neither these concertos nor performers provide. All in all, this is a suitable match-up of music and artists.

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