Lang Lang

The Best of Lang Lang

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Chinese pianist Lang Lang has his detractors, but among the younger generation of players he's the closest thing going to a genuine superstar. Maybe it's the cherubic face, the rangy charm, or the oddly instinctive understanding that some Chinese have of American style (Ang Lee is another example). The man's hair alone is hard to forget. Or maybe purely musical factors are dominant. It may be true that Lang Lang deals in extremes of light and shade, but when he effectively sets up that contrast it will deliver a punch every time. At any rate, he has outlasted his prodigy phase and is still attracting plenty of new listeners who may be interested in a best-of collection. Deutsche Grammophon has delivered a reasonable one here, taking into consideration the limitations of the format. The label did well to include several live tracks, for the indefinable Lang Lang magic definitely comes through in these. Sample the recording of "Träumerei," from Schumann's Kinderszenen, Op. 15, and you may be already hooked by the broadly extended but irresistible final cadence. The program as a whole gives a fair representation of Lang Lang's basically Romantic repertory and dazzling technical facility. There are four concerto movements but no complete concertos, which is probably a good move since it is in large-scale architecture that Lang Lang is at his worst, and in single brilliant movements that he makes people remember him. The package contains a brief biography of Lang Lang, in English only, along with largely wasted space showing the covers of the pianist's individual albums. On balance, an album that accomplishes what it sets out to do.

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