By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
As insane as it is to contemplate, Lang Lang flunked out of piano lessons at age 9. That’s right. The piano teacher thought he was useless. And the classical world would have been much different, had another piano teacher decided not to comfort him by playing a recording of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 10. This inspired the Chinese piano sensation to keep going, and eventually, the music conservatory beckoned, and beyond that, the whole planet.
That piano sonata isn’t heard on the recently released “Mozart Album,” but the pianist cut two discs’ worth of the Viennese composer, working mostly alone on the second disc. He worked with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic on some of the rest.
The orchestral pieces compare and contrast Lang’s piano textures with the low reedy call of the bassoon, the push of the violin, and the eerie bird call of the oboe. But they reinforce how intricately Mozart must be played on the piano and any other instruments, since force, attack, and dynamics (loudness) vary from one note to the next. The sections seem to sing to each other, concepts reflected in Mozart’s operas.
Lang has said that even though Mozart seems very easy to play on the page (adding that all young people play his music—by which, I assume, he means all young classical learners), it can take decades, the accumulation of a lifetime, to understand and execute his compositions. I find deep solace in what he can already do with the music, sometimes cascading, sometimes seemingly pushing back at the rotation of the compact disc itself. And I never thought I cared much for classical music, except some odd Bach, before this. Now I want to listen to almost nothing else. (end)
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.