Lang Lang's Piano Choices At Nobel Prize Ceremony
Chinese pianist Lang Lang performed at Oslo City Hall today during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. The Nobel Committee hasn't released video yet, but here's an earlier, dazzling performance he gave of Franz Liszt's Liebestraum. NPR Music Producer Tom Huizenga offered these thoughts on Lang Lang's selections. -KC
In the interest of inspecting every last second of the Nobel ceremony, I'd like to take time to over-think the music.
Like President Obama's Nobel speech, where he attempted to smooth out the inherent conflict of accepting a peace award as a wartime President, one could muse over a different kind of "conflict" within the music that Chinese pianist Lang Lang chose to play before and after the president spoke.
Early in the ceremony came Chopin's Etude in E, Op. 10, No. 3, an uncharacteristically lyrical Chopin Etude that, like the President's speech, contains contrasting sections, setting up conflicting choices for the performer. The right hand has to, in effect, "sing" the melody, plus help out with the bottom line (a bi-partisan approach), while the left hand lays a solid, chordal foundation. The raucous middle section gracefully yields to a peaceful conclusion, which Lang Lang told the Associated Press was fitting in relation to the message of the prize.
The charismatic pianist, like the president, is good at picking international venues to make his statements -- his musical ones, that is. He invariably pops up with a grand piano at gigantic sporting events, such as the Olympics or World Cup soccer ceremonies.
The President began by speaking of his "great humility" and our collective "higher aspirations." He ended with hope, and an image of an impoverished mother teaching her child that a "cruel world still has a place for his dreams."
Lang Lang followed with one of his signature pieces, Liszt's "Liebestraum" ("Love-Dream"). Its warm, rippling surface, with episodes of bravura, and a dash of drama beneath, is seemingly in pursuit of the type of dreams the President has for a gentler, more peaceful world.
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPRmusic.org.