An animated crowd packed the Granada Theatre Saturday night (September 5, 2009) to hear a special pre-season concert by the Santa Barbara
Symphony. Beethoven was the subject of the musical feast; the Overture to Coriolan serving as aperitif and the Second and Third piano concertos, a double entrée. Helmed by Music and Artistic Director, Nir Kabaretti, the orchestra was in superb form. Soloist was the twenty-seven year old Chinese pianistic wonder, Lang Lang.
Revelling in the discovery, courtesy of new research from the department of psychology at Cambridge University, that as a "classical buff" I am "quiet, friendly, responsible and intelligent" but also "unathletic, physically unattractive and dull", I've been hard put to know how best to celebrate. It certainly takes the pressure off.
The venerable Staatskapelle Dresden arrived at the Proms proudly bearing the excess luggage of Strauss’ Alpine Symphony – a piece dedicated expressly to them.
But the first sounds they produced emanated from somewhere far deeper than the foothills of that particular mountain range.
Herbie Hancock checks out the sunset from the balcony of his hotel penthouse overlooking Park Avenue. The jazz legend is waiting for his latest musical partner: Lang Lang, a young classical pianist who was born in China and has become its most famous international musician.
Spiky haired and energetic, Lang Lang suddenly sweeps through the door reaching his arms out to Hancock.
Musical ambassadors unite & ignite. The unlikely duo of jazzmatazz maestro Herbie Hancock and ivory smasher Lang² descended on New Jersey this past weekend as they winded down their symphony extravaganza tour that's already finessed parts of Europe and the USA. The cohesive factor was the insoluble John Axelrod, who whipped the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra into a frenzy through a populist program of widely accessible music (Mozart, Ravel, Bernstein, and Gershwin) -- the kind of music that speaks directly to the people as opposed to speaking down to them.
The musical purists may have been scandalized, but what happened at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park on Tuesday night wasn't designed for the faint of heart.
Instead, two celebrated pianists thumbed their noses at the unwritten rules of American concert life and played what they wanted to play, the way they wanted to play it.
At first glance, the second of Lang Lang’s two Ravinia concerts appeared as the dessert to Sunday’s main course, which had featured Prokofiev’s Third and a reunion with the pianist’s long-time mentor Christoph Eschenbach—a partnership famously born ten years ago this summer on the same pavilion stage.
The walls separating jazz, classical and pop music have been weakening for years, but they're about to be dealt another blow.
For when a revered jazz musician partners with a star of classical music in an openly populist program, the ghetto-izing of our musical culture faces another setback.
Even by the hyper-individualistic standards of the piano world, jazzman Herbie Hancock and classicist Lang Lang are as unorthodox as duo-piano pairings get. Put them together with the almost-never-heard Ralph Vaughan Williams Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, and Thursday's final program of the Philadelphia Orchestra's Mann Center season also has the greatest curiosity factor.