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The Warsaw Voice » Other » January 13, 2010
Celebrating Chopin
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Review-Lang Lang on Mission Impossible
January 13, 2010   
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A brilliant musician, a pianist of world stature with excellent technical skills. Anyone claiming that Lang Lang is superficial or lacks depth or taste is an ignoramus. But I will risk the wrath of the many fans of the Chinese virtuoso by saying Lang Lang does not have a feel for Chopin's music.

It's no bad thing that Lang Lang, rather than, say, Rafa³ Blechacz or Krystian Zimerman, was invited to appear in the concert launching the Year of Chopin because the performance he delivered proves that Chopin's music is always the most difficult test-not just of a pianist's artistic maturity and technical skill, but also of his romantic soul.

Here we had it all: bravura passages, panache and lightness, all the notes written by Chopin perfectly articulated in a masterly fashion, and the ability to make sense of this tangle and capture the spirit of the period. So what was lacking, a music lover delighted with the inaugural concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic may ask?

The answer is: Chopin. Lang Lang did not let me touch Chopin's depth, although I listened raptly to the pianist express his inner self at a rehearsal and during the concert. But Chopin was not there. What's more, Lang Lang annoyed me because I continued to wait. His music lacked wholeness. I was unable to get through his correctness, melodiousness and musical faultlessness to reach the essence of Chopin. The reason, I think, was that Lang Lang himself did not reach it. But thanks to the Chinese virtuoso, I understood once again how incredibly difficult this is. Many have tried to do so before Lang Lang. One of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, Svyatoslav Richter, once told a well-known Polish music critic, "Chopin is the hardest-whenever I am about to catch him, he runs away..."

I maintain that Lang Lang does not have a feel for Chopin's music and that this is not a problem. "He plays excellently and who needs Chopin's soul these days?" a well-known music critic told me before the concert with a wink.

I am sure, however, that it was a great concert. Lang Lang is a brilliant musician, a pianist of world stature with excellent technical skills.
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