Pianist displays both star power and restraint
The Celebrity Series of Boston lived up to its name in presenting a Symphony Hall recital by Lang Lang. While the 26-year-old Chinese pianist is well-known for more than simply, in Daniel Boorstin's famous formulation, his well-knownness, the cultivation of celebrity is a large and unapologetic part of Lang's career: His program biography gives his recordings and his signature Adidas sneakers equal billing. But much of Sunday's program made celebrity conspicuous by its absence, using the latitude of virtuoso fame to traverse more cerebral repertoire.
The first half, for example, was taken up by Franz Schubert's A-major Piano Sonata No. 20; like Schubert's other late sonatas, it's music of structural expanse rather than adrenalized excitement. Lang's approach was detailed and judicious, with a crisp, satiny tone, drawing phrases inward and upward. The control was uncanny - flawless, minute polish - but Schubert's long-range expressive arc never emerged amidst the emotionally cool repose.