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Lang Lang

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


My Classical Notes

July 26

Piano Daydreams

My Classical NotesThis is a wonderful collection of solo piano compositions played by different artists, such as Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Lang Lang, and more. Here is a long list of the selections that are recorded for your enjoyment: Bach, J S: Prelude & Fugue Book 1 No. 1 in C major, BWV846: Prelude Hélène Grimaud (piano) Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 ‘Moonlight’: Adagio sostenuto Daniel Barenboim (piano) Brahms: Intermezzo in E flat major, Op. 117 No. 1 Wilhelm Kempff (piano) Chopin: Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9 No. 2 Daniel Barenboim (piano) Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp major, Op. 15 No. 2 Daniel Barenboim (piano) Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor Martha Argerich (piano) Prelude Op. 28 No. 7 in A major Martha Argerich (piano) Debussy: Préludes – Book 1: No. 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin Dino Ciani (piano) Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) Alexis Weissenberg (piano) Grieg: Lyric Pieces Op. 43: No. 6 – To Spring Mikhail Pletnev (piano) Lyric Pieces Op. 54: No. 4 – Nocturne Andrei Gavrilov (piano) Liszt: Consolation, S. 172 No. 3 in D flat major Daniel Barenboim (piano) Liebestraum, S541 No. 3 (Nocturne in A flat major) Yundi Li (piano) Mendelssohn: Song without Words, Op. 19b No. 1 in E major ‘Sweet Remembrance’ Daniel Barenboim (piano) Song without Words, Op. 30 No. 6 in F sharp minor ‘Venezianisches Gondellied No. 2’ Daniel Barenboim (piano) Rachmaninov: Prelude Op. 23 No. 4 in D major Lazar Berman (piano) Prelude Op. 32 No. 12 in G sharp minor Lilya Zilberstein (piano) Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1 Jean-Marc Luisada (piano) Schubert: Impromptu in G flat major, D899 No. 3 Daniel Barenboim (piano) Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15: Traümerei Lang Lang (piano)

Tribuna musical

August 22

"El fiord”, opera on Osvaldo Lamborghini´s porno politics

Osvaldo Lamborghini´s "El fiord" invites polemics, for its whole text is a pornographic-scatological indictment of Argentine politics as they were in 1968, the year of the Cordobazo. César Aira and Alan Pauls defend him, others attack him. He is called a "poeta maldito" ("damned poet") but I hardly feel that he bears comparison with such illustrious specimens as Lautréamont ("Les chants de Maldoror"), Baudelaire´s marvelous "Les fleurs du mal" or Rimbaud´s fantasies. Their texts reflect decadent societies with dystopic views of reality though with beautiful literary language, never having recourse to the lowest possible level of words reflecting sex and bodily functions. Lamborghini isn´t earthy or picaresque as Rabelais or Boccaccio, he is simply dirty. There´s no eroticism in what he does nor is he crude and gross in the manner of "revista" comedians. What he does may be novel but not valid: corporize political ideas in chaotic and Surrealistic dialogues and gestures of an absolutely constant porno-scatological pouring out. You get easily saturated for you soon find out that it leads nowhere. Both Osvaldo and Leónidas (brothers) were writers and peronistas, but Leónidas never went to the extremes of his brother although being frankly militant. Militant writing can be good, witness the Weill-Brecht collaboration in "Grandeur and decadence of the City of Mahagonny", an attack on Capitalism of real quality and coherence. But both this and "El Fiord" end with people filling the stage with placards in which we read completely contradictory things, in both cases showing the tremendous confusion of society. It is one of the few salvageable things of Lamborghini´s opus. You can also think of it as predicting the disastrous way of Argentina to state terrorism. Said Osvaldo: "on March 24, 1976, I became mad, homosexual, marxist, drug addict and alcoholic". Those are the words that auto-describe one of the characters, Atilio Tancredo Vacán, one of the products of Carla Greta Terón, a vast woman that is always being made pregnant and giving birth. Everything is led (sort of) by El Loco Rodríguez, a ludicrous tyrant whose ideological line is quite unclear, seconded by the yells of the frantic leftist Alicia Fafó. And the Narrator is also a character who eventually is harassed by El Loco. But there´s a fantasmagoric "Woman of the Fiord" who is according to the Narrator the ghost of his dead wife (twice) and dead mother (once); these ghosts seem to evoke better times. Eventually El Loco gets his comeuppance and the others literally eat him up, not forgetting his most important part, the testicles. One hears all sorts of political references, some understandable, many others cryptic. But even in Surrealistic terms, all you have is chaos. One parallel can be made, Alfred Jarry´s "Ubu Roi", but there the cruel, absurd tyrant is deeply parodied, and Penderecki´s opera on the subject (seen at the Colón) was quite interesting. What led Diego Tedesco (composer) and Nacho Bartolone (libretto) to believe that O.L.´s material was viable as an opera I don´t know, but I feel they were wrong and that an institution like the Colón (through the CETC) can´t support such a text; Miguel Galperin, the CETC´s Director, has crossed a line, for nothing so dirty has been seen in opera. It´s true that the Colón is having a very permissive bent in what is staged at the big hall, certainly a bad trend, but this is too much at least for me. Paradoxically, producer Silvio Lang was good, in the sense that it is a vivid imaging of the text´s madness. He opted for stressed grotesque in gestures, costumes and lighting, abetted by Leonardo Ceolin (stage design), Endi Ruiz (costumes and art direction) and David Seldes (lighting). Everything was brutal, visceral, with touches of crazy humor. Colorful, with fast action. There are only two singing parts: El Loco, baritone (who also talks) and the Woman of the Fiord (soprano). The others are actors. The gigantic figure of Víctor Torres is cconvincing for El Loco, and of course he sang well. And Johanna Pizani produced pure, high notes. Of the actors I would single out the Narrator, Hernán Franco, who has intensity and adequate diction. The others almost constantly yell lustily, well, that´s what director Lang instructed them to do. MusicaQuantica Voces de Cámara are nine voices led by Camilo Santostefano; they don´t participate in the action and are placed in opposed rows near the audience. They sang moody music very well. The Ensemble Bracelet was led with good control by Juan Martín Miceli; the eight members play different instruments, providing timbric variety in music that mostly seems relegated by the stage outrages. I have to record that the very "décontracté" audience seemed to enjoy the stage meal provided; maybe they have good training in alternative theatres where the equivalent of the F word in Scorsese´s gangster pictures runs rampant. One thing, though: O.L. has a much wider variety of expletives. For Buenos Aires Herald




Tribuna musical

August 22

Lang Lang´s return: true to form, dazzling but controversial

Lang Lang is certainly the most mediatic pianist in the world. As you read the biography in the hand programme, you find precious little about music, but plenty of kudos about his influence; and he´s only 32. He played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for four thousand million people; he collaborated with pop dancer Marquese "Nonstop" Scott, Julio Iglesias and Herbie Hancock. He is a Messenger for Peace of the United Nations and he has his own Lang Lang International Music Foundation with stress on giving children access to good music through education. Steinway even designed the Lang Lang piano for China. He is a staple in presentations before Presidents and is chosen for commemorative concerts such as the one for Queen Elizabeth II´s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace. He was one of the Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum (a musician!). But no mention is made about his training or his recordings or his early appearances. Lang Lang has been coming regularly during the last decade, so he seems to find the Colón attractive. In this recital of the Abono Verde (Green Subscription Series) the audience was quite varied, for apart from music lovers you had the mediatic seekers. The premices were full and increasingly enthusiastic; by the time the encores were played, the response was almost delirious; and he, as the showman he also is, saluted with charm and signed programmes. It helps that he is personable and very cordial. Now to the music. Lang Lang is realistic and he only squeezes small Chinese pieces in the encores. I have often wondered about the Oriental capacity to adapt to the Occidental world, for it doesn´t work the other way around. From this artist´s teens critics have recognised his amazing dexterity with something of the acrobatic mixed in; well, the best acrobats are Chinese. Apparently he can play faultlessly anything written for the piano, no matter how difficult. That´s the dazzling side, always present. But of course style matters and the success of the interpretation depends on it. In the same piece with Lang Lang you can hear a beguiling passage and seconds later a distorted view of the score, though note-perfect. That has been so in every visit, and there´s no sign that the problem will disappear. Nevertheless, the experience of hearing him is always interesting and worthwhile, and a good many minutes will be of very high rank. His recitals have always brought different programmes and sometimes his choices were intriguing. E.g., being such a virtuoso, why choose an easy Mozart sonata? He can also bring over some beautiful music very rarely heard, as he did this time with Tchaikovsky´s "The seasons". And he can disconcert playing it before, not after, Johann Sebastian Bach´s "Italian Concerto". "The seasons" is a misnomer for what should be called "The months". It was the result of monthly pieces written for a Saint Petersburg music magazine, afterwards edited by Jurgenson as Op.37a (Op.37 is the Great Piano Sonata in G). Beginning of course in January, an intimate piece called "Close to the chimney", each month has different character and title, sometimes brilliant and fast ("Carnival", "The Hunt") but more frequently melodic in the inimitable tchaikovskian way ("Barcarolle", "The lark´s song"). The last two are November ("Troika") and December ("The salon waltz"). In my long years of concert going I had never heard the whole suite in one concert, and Lang Lang is to be thanked for this discovery, though of course there are recordings (Ashkenazy, Bronfman, Pletnev; Ilona Prunyi plays them very nicely). Exciting but exaggerated in the fast ones, Lang Lang showed the subtility of his touch in the melodies, molded delicately and phrased with taste. His memory always seems excellent, you never see or hear a hesitation; you may disagree with some of his decisions, but he never improvises: he is sure of himself at all times. Bach´s marvelous Italian Concerto (called thus although written for one instrument) is of course a staple of the repertoire of harpsichordists (preferable) and pianists. Lang Lang uses the full resources of the modern piano but he doesn´t abuse the pedals and he has the sort of total independence of hands needed to keep the constant counterpoint clear. So, although slightly fast, he kept a steady rhythmic pulse. The four Chopin Scherzi are among his most important creations, wholly his in conception and technique, and equally mature from op.20 to Op.54. They all have a main Presto and a contrasting slow, moody melody. They can be played quite fast but not willfully, such as Orozco, Argerich or Rubinstein did; but Lang Lang suddenly sprints off when he resumes the Presto material at a double-fast clip not asked for by the composer, and the balance deteriorates. The perfection of the playing survives, but not the spirit. However, how lovely and contained were the quiet moments. In two of the encores he was at his worst: a wild, brutal "Fire Dance" from Falla´s "Love the Magician" ("El Amor Brujo") and a disheveled "Danza cubana" by Lecuona.(Listen respectively to Rubinstein and the author to know how they should sound). And in the middle, an inocuous slow Chinese melody, nicely done. Will he change in the future? I bet he won´t. He will remain fascinating and irritating. He likes things his way and that´s that. For Buenos Aires Herald



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