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<<  -- 4 --  John Bell Young    ON TOP OF THE NOTES

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His skittish dispatch of Tchaikovsky's alluring Dumka and Balakirev's evergreen Islamey want for aforethought. Instead, they give way to a cavalier disregard for contrast, polyphonic interplay, bel canto and the specific serpentine melisma -- called protyazhenaya -- that Balakirev and his colleagues drew from Russian folk elements.

Mr Lang's problem, then, is this: he doesn't know how to make the piano sing, nor how to produce a vibrant sound that rings out with illusory conviction and seems to grow in spite of its implicit attenuation. In his musical universe, there are neither points of departure or arrival; he consistently fails to identify concrete compositional goals on which the complexities of these works rely for their very definition. Lumbering along like a wind up toy soldier, he blindly bumps into every beat with the enforced punctuality of a schoolboy. What goes on in between those beats is of no concern to this pianist, who lives on top of the notes, but never in areas of affective intensity that separate them.

We've all heard a thousand clones of Mr Lang. My prediction for this pianist, which will most certainly be born out, is a sterling career in academia and a modest, if short-lived run on the concert stage. Nowadays I am inclined to believe that, where artistry is concerned, one either has it or does not. Thus, whatever his youthful charms may be in person, Lang Lang falls strictly into the latter category.

Copyright © 19 May 2001 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA

 

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