Last Saturday night I was extremely fortunate to have attended what was initially slated to be a
presentation of the "Dragon Songs" by Lang Lang here in Chicago. The evening turned out to be
far more than that! The house was about two-thirds full. The program notes mentioned that
the song selections would be announced from the stage but would include a list of about
thirteen works both Chinese and traditional classical. I'm not going to talk about how Lang
Lang played the piano because that's been done to death in another thread and either you love
how he plays or hate how he plays. Personally, I love how he plays.
Lang Lang came out with a microphone and greeted the audience and then talked in a general
way about the musicians we would hear. He then specifically introduced a young girl Kate Liu
(14 years old!) that had won a competition locally that was going to play a four-hand piece with him.
So, the first piece we heard was this 14 year old girl playing the right-hand part of the
Schubert Fantasy in F Minor for Piano Four-Hands, D. 940 and Lang Lang playing the left hand
part. Dang that piece is beautiful! It is such a subdued piece that everyone was entranced.
The girl was absolutely astounding. So confident!
After she left the stage Lang Lang announced the next five pieces which are all solo piano.
The first four are on the "Dragon Songs" CD.
1) Lu Wencheng: Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake
2) Sun Yi Qiang: Dance of Spring
3) Zhu Jianer: Happy Times
4) He Luting: The Cowherd's Flute
5) Traditional: Moon Chased by Clouds
Each time he announced the song he would translate the title into Chinese too.
When he announced the 5th piece above all the Chinese people in the audience applauded.
That was pretty moving. Anyways, the first and second pieces above are very beautiful.
The first one is pretty heavy on the asian pentatonic scales and the second one
is a tango with a slight asian flair.
After this he introduced another friend: Guo Gan, a shiny bald-headed erhu virtuoso (chinese violin)
in a shimmering blue monk's robe. Lang Lang said that Guo Gan's father was the one that taught
his father to play erhu.
Together they played "The Moon Reflected on the Er Quan" for erhu and piano.
This piece is not on "Dragon Songs". It is an extremely emotional piece.
After this one they played "Racing Horses" which is famous from Lang Lang's Carnegie Hall
debut. This time it had extended erhu solo sections. It occurred to me that these pieces could
easily be adapted to violin and piano very effectively.
Then came two new friends: DaXun Zhang on double bass and Yang Wei on pipa. Together they played
(sans piano) a traditional Chinese tune which is not listed in the program and I couldn't hear
what the guy said it was (he was shy to talk but not when playing!) and a Purcell(?) Passacaglia
for lute and bass. That was a little repetitive (as passacaglias can be) and to me the pipa showed
some of it's limitations for tone quality. I started thinking of ukeleles for some reason
Then Lang lang joined them for a traditional Chinese piece called "Three Six". Piano, pipa and
bass make a very effective combination.
The erhu player came back out and played a solo that to me sounded like an adaptation
of a "Fiddler on the Roof" tune. Some other people in the audience laughed so they must have
thought so too. When he was finished Lang Lang and he played another duet called
"Spring Flowers in the Moonlit Night on the River". This was another one for which the
Chinese people applauded when announced in their language.
I really can't stress enough how beautiful these piano/erhu duets are.
The two make a perfect pair.
Finally all four played together for an arrangement of Piazzolla's "Oblivion" by the bass player.
To start this tune, after a brief meditation the erhu player played a single note
on this huge gong and then played a simple wood block accompaniement to the other three
musicians. After this they played a Kreisler arrangement of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 6.
Lang Lang sight-read everything except the five solo pieces he played. Everyone else had
sheet music for all their parts but I don't think the pipa player ever looked at his, and
neither did the erhu player.
I have to say that this concert was one of the top five in my whole concert going life
(and I saw Kiss when they still wore make up so take that for what it's worth