RACHMANINOV 2. Piano Concerto / Lang Lang, Gergiev


Piano Concerto
Klavierkonzert No. 2

Paganini Rhapsody
Lang Lang
Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre
Valery Gergiev
Int. Release 14 Mar. 2005
1 CD / Download
0289 477 5231 8
Live recording · Konzertmitschnitt
"Lang Lang is a marvel, his ease of virtuosity astonishing, his stage presence magnetic." The Times (London), May 2004

Track List

Sergey Vasil'yevich Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18


Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43



























Lang Lang, Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev

Total Playing Time 1:00:25

Lang is a very special pianist. What distinguishes him, aside from his remarkable technique and sensitive artistry, is his expressive stage presence. His face reflects his feelings and his body seems connected to the music's deepest impulses.

Lang Lang has achieved more than many do in a lifetime.

The orchestral sound and Lang Lang's dark yet vigorous piano playing complement each other perfectly . . . This one-hour album captures the heart of "Russian Romantic music" . . . Definitely a solid project from one of the most talented up-and-coming pianists of our time.

Lang Lang¿s Rachmaninov will certainly thrill the pianist¿s fans. His playing is larger than life -- literally.

. . . there is absolutely no doubting the formidable - and very sensitive - pianist that Lang Lang is: his commitment is never in doubt for a moment . . . The "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" is notable in Lang Lang's hands for some lovely characterization as well as bags of dazzling virtuosity allied to thoughtful musicianship . . . In short, this is Rachmaninov-playing of real personality, extremely well accompanied by a great conductor and orchestra. The piano sound is rich and warm.

These performances are brimming with the technical virtuosity and vitality for which Lang Lang is famous.

Lang Lang is a prodigiously gifted artist . . .

Will no doubt enhance Mr. Lang's reputation as one of the preeminent pianists of our time.

. . . there is much to admire in Lang Lang's recorded performance of the Concerto No. 2 in that he doesn't exaggerate or indulge in novelty for the sake of it . . . Lang Lang is a straightforward, considered interpreter of this very familiar piece . . . Lang Lang has a natural musicality and, here, there is a beguiling turn of phrase that can only be responded to positively, especially so in "Paganini Rhapsody" in which Gergiev and The Kirov Orchestra (as we conveniently call the instrumentalists of the Mariinsky Theatre) make a telling contribution.

The performances are viscerally exciting. Lang Lang plays powerfully, swiftly and accurately.

Sergei Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto demands both a virtuoso pianist and a huge, supple orchestral sound. It gets both in this multichannel recording from Deutsche Grammophon, which pairs Lang Lang with a venerable Russian Orchestra . . . It's not only a great recording; it's the kind that communicates effectively in any medium. Surely this is the best piano-and-orchestra release of the year.

The Mariinsky strings perfectly reflect the pianist's utterly original, cool and aristocratic handling of the big tune in the finale.

Der junge chinesische Weltstar am Pianistenhimmel bezaubert durch perfekte Show und immense Musikalität.

Er stürzt hinein in einen Rausch aus Klängen und Konzentration, in eine Trance aus Lust und Leidenschaft. Zurück in die Wirklichkeit spült es den Künstler erst, als die letzten Töne im Nichts verklungen sind.

Wenn ein Tastentiger wie der junge Chinese Lang Lang und ein Pultlöwe wie der Russe Valery Gergiev sich zusammentun, dann ist die Gemengelage sowieso schon explosiv. Wenn die beiden dann noch "Rach zwei" -- Rachmaninows 2. Klavierkonzert -- sowie dessen "Paganini-Rhapsodie" einspielen (Deutsche Grammophon), darf man sich getrost auf musikalisches Großfeuerwerk gefasst machen.

Wenn Lang Lang zusammen mit dem Motivationstrainer Valery Gergiev eines der emotional aufgeladensten Klavierkonzerte einspielt, darf man auf ein Wechselbad der Gefühle gefasst sein . . . Alles ist aufgeladen mit Bekenntnissen -- und das Orchester des Petersburger Mariinskj-Theaters liefert dazu die luxuriöse Klangfolie . . . Das ist der Mitschnitt eines Konzerts, bei dem man gerne dabei gewesen wäre.

Wenn zwei Virtuosen des Klaviers aufeinandertreffen, ist die Garantie für eine musikalische Sternstunde so gut wie gegeben. Die Rede ist von Rachmaninow und Lang Lang -- dem russischen Pianisten und Komponisten sowie dem chinesischen Tastenzauberer . . .

In Rachmaninoffs zweitem Klavierkonzert zeigt der Chinese Lang Lang, 22, in der Tat eine frühreife Leistung: brillant seine Technik, die keine Pedalnebel braucht, kultiviert sein Anschlag, der den träumerischen Zauber des zweiten Satzes gut trifft.

Wie kleine Springteufel tanzen seine Finger über die Tasten, unbeirrt und technisch makellos. Insgesamt erlaubt sich Lang Lang hier und dort kleinere Auffälligkeiten. Das fängt schon mit der genussvoll zelebrierten Einleitung im Kopfsatz an. Lang Lang weiß stets, was er tut. Er will die Musik sprechen lassen. Das ist an einigen Stellen sehr individuell, dafür durchdacht. Das gilt auch für die bravouröse, scharf akzentuierte Paganini-Rhapsodie, bei der Gergiev und seine Marinskyer insbesondere in dynamischer Hinsicht lebendige Partner sind.

Als der chinesische Pianist Lang Lang unter dem russischen Dirigenten Valery Gergiev im finnischen Mikkeli das c-moll-Konzert Opus 18 und die Paganini-Rhapsodie von Sergej Rachmaninow spielte, muß das Publikum eine Stunde und sechsundzwanzig Sekunden lang das Atmen vergessen haben. Selbst während der leisen Passagen des Adagio sostenuto ist kein Huster zu hören . . .

. . . muss man die charismatische Musikalität und die pianistische Frühreife dieses Ausnahmetalents . . . staunend zur Kenntnis nehmen . . . Und dass er nicht nur ein konzentrierter "Ton- Kalligraph" ist, der perfekt ausformulierten Details den Vorzug gibt vor der großen dramatischen Linie, das beweist Lang Lang in seiner ironisch-doppelbödigen, dabei stets farbenprächtigen Interpretation der Paganini-Variationen.

Lang Lang . . . wartet in der Rhapsodie mit so manch technischem Zauberstückchen auf.

Lang Lang et Valery Gergiev nous offrent une version absolument somptueuse du Deuxième Concerto de Serge Rachmaninov. Ils adoptent des tempos très amples, qui leur permettent un chant immense, intensément romantique, chant qu'ils parviennent à soutenir en permanence . . . Le mouvement lent baigne ici dans un climat d'extase amoureuse irrésistible, avec une fin sublime, où le chant semble venir de très loin . . . Lang Lang . . . rivalise avec la musicalité superlative du jeu de Byron Janis . . . La "Rhapsodie sur un thème de Paganini" connaît également une lecture somptueuse. Cette oeuvre très subtile . . . est ici abordée sur des tempos inhabituellement amples, délaissant la dimension ludique, virtuose et arachnéenne si bien illustrée par Serge Rachmaninov lui-même avec Leoopold Stokowksi . . . Lang Lang et Gergiev privilégient l'épaisseur de son, et des climats plus russes, sombres et inquiétants, avec des effets menacants qui évoquent tour à tour Moussorgski et Prokofiev. Quel disque !

Con ello el pianista se nos revela como un intérprete de sentimiento, alejado por completo de un virtuosismo frío y mecánico., Sin perder esta aureola, Lang Lang aborda con gran inteligencia las célebres «Variaciones sobre un temo de Paganini», haciendo alarde de su prodigiosa digitación, pero sin que la velocidad vaya nunca por delante de todo el humor, la poesía y la voluptuosidad que va descubriéndonos dentro de esta obra.
    Lang Lang plays Rachmaninov

Lang Lang announced his arrival on the Yellow Label with the thundering chords that open Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, one of the cornerstones of the Romantic piano repertoire, recorded in February 2003, and released on CD that autumn to glowing reviews - Gramophone spoke of the Chinese pianist's "breathtaking virtuosity" and the "purposefulness and conviction of the playing". Now, after the equally successful solo recital "Live at Carnegie Hall", released on CD, SACD and DVD, Lang Lang turns his attention to another of the great Romantic concertos, Rachmaninov's Second, and another arresting opening: those sombre, tolling piano chords that herald the dark lyricism of one of the composer's most tragic melodies, and a swirling sound-world that the pianist himself describes as like "an ocean".

Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto is one of the most popular pieces in the entire repertoire, but it was not the first of the composer's four concertos that Lang Lang chose to learn. He had heard that the Third was the most difficult, and made a point of learning that concerto first, only later moving on to the Second, which he took up at the age of 14. Now he concedes that in artistic terms the Second actually poses greater challenges, precisely because of its popularity. Both now feature in his repertoire. He made his début at the London Proms in 2001 with the Third, and in April 2004 had the opportunity to take the Second back to the city of its birth, Moscow, with an all-Russian line-up: the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg under their conductor Valery Gergiev. The new recording, with the same forces, was made live at a concert in Mikkeli in Finland during the summer of 2004.

Working together with a Russian orchestra and conductor has been a powerful inspiration for the pianist, and he is characteristically enthusiastic both about the relationship he established with Gergiev and about the playing of the orchestra, which he describes as "really Russian: brilliant, powerful and exciting". The Concerto is famous for marking in music the composer's emergence from a long period of depression, and consequently can be read in very personal, intimate terms, what Lang Lang calls "the darkness of his soul". As he says, "there is a constant sense of unease, yet at the same Rachmaninov creates huge, sweeping melodic lines, like the broad Russian landscape. It's a very deep piece of music; you can't play it as you would a light-hearted piece by Mozart. You must incorporate the sadness, the grief."

But the pianist is equally keen to get to the heart of the music's uniquely Russian qualities. During his spring tour of Russia, Lang Lang recorded his impressions of the country in an online diary, and it is clear that he sees a strong connection between the environment - landscape and people - and Rachmaninov's music. Walking around Moscow, almost in the composer's footsteps, Lang Lang found further insights into the concerto: "The first thing I discovered was the wind. This I had noticed in the music - some passages are like the wind. Secondly, everything is very grand and noble, yet intricate, like Tchaikovsky's statue. Bells are certainly one of the most important images in the concerto. As I passed the churches I heard the tremendous sound of the bells, a beautifully harmonic sound. Rachmaninov heard those bells, and their sound led him to his melodies."

Gergiev agrees that it is important to understand Russian culture to connect with the music of Rachmaninov. He calls it being "culturally prepared", a phrase that speaks volumes about the artistic commitment of this conductor, one of the greatest figures of this generation. Of course, there has to be a personal element as well, especially with a piece that is as popular and has been as frequently recorded as this. Quite apart from technical virtuosity, and there are passages in the concerto that are among the most difficult in the entire repertoire, Gergiev finds something special in Lang Lang's approach: "Like any young virtuoso he can play the instrument brilliantly. What is interesting is that he's not in a rush; he knows that the composer wants the artist to take time to enjoy the piece."

But Russia is not so foreign for a Chinese pianist born at the end of the 20th century, and Lang Lang is aware that because of the ties between the two countries, Russian music featured strongly in his own musical education. His teachers also made a point of making him listen to Russian orchestral music, by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. And then, as Lang Lang points out, "since Russia and China have the shared experience of revolution, it is not difficult for Chinese people to identify with the expression of suffering that lies at the heart of Russian Romantic music."

The Second Concerto is coupled with the composer's last piece for piano and orchestra, the Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, composed in 1934 in Switzerland, after Rachmaninov, in middle age, had left Russia with his family for life abroad. Based on the well-known theme from the last of Paganini's 24 Caprices for solo violin, it brings the idea of virtuosity full circle - Paganini the demonic violinist of legend linked to Rachmaninov the keyboard wizard. The composer made a recording of the piece weeks after its first performance in November 1934 in Baltimore with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski.

In tackling the piece, Lang Lang is conscious of the example set by the composer's own recordings: "I have listened to them many times, and what is peculiar about them is the fact that Rachmaninov played differently from what he wrote in the scores... He puts great feeling and soul into the music, and through his playing one can hear the traditional Russian school coming through. It's almost as though Rachmaninov is improvising, the playing is so fluent and communicates directly to the listener."

And communication is the goal that unites Gergiev and Lang Lang. For the conductor, there is a clear need today for "artists who go straight to the listener's heart. Every naturally gifted musician will find a way to communicate with the audience, and Lang Lang is one of the few. You cannot imagine the audience being in love with the music... unless the artist himself is in love with it." The live atmosphere preserved on this recording is important too: Gergiev is not hung up on a performance being, as he puts it, "clinically precise", but wants it to be "naturally musical, naturally beautiful".

Kenneth Chalmers

    Lang Lang - Chronology

"Yes, there's gold in them fingers."
(The Times, 2 May 2003)

Acclaimed in the major concert halls of North America, Europe and Asia, Lang Lang - at the age of 22 - has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to connect with audiences on a deeply personal level and has established himself as one of the most exciting pianists of our time. Lang Lang's talent and personality make him an ideal ambassador for classical music and a role model for young people. He has performed live on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and will soon be seen on "sesame Street". He is the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by the Berlin Philharmonic and all "Big Five" American orchestras. In 2004 he took up his duties as UN Goodwill Ambassador with a visit to Tanzania, further expanded his devoted fan base with a triumphant concert tour of Australia and New Zealand, and topped the classical charts (and even entered the German pop charts) with his Carnegie Hall recital recording.

  • 1982
    Born in Shenyang, China, Lang Lang begins his piano studies at the age of three with Professor Zhu Ya-Fen from the Shenyang Conservatory of Music.

  • 1987
    Wins first prize in the Shenyang Piano Competition after which he gives his first public recital. In the coming years he takes first prize in the Fifth Xing Hai Cup Piano Competition in Beijing, first prize and "outstanding artistic performance" in the Fourth International Young Pianists Competition in Germany, and first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition held in 1995 in Japan.

  • 1991
    Enters the Central Music Conservatory in Beijing, where he studies with Professor Zhao Ping-Guo.

  • 1995
    Plays the complete Chopin Etudes in the Beijing Concert Hall.

  • 1996
    In September, performs as one of the soloists at the inaugural concert of the China National Symphony, which President Jiang Ze-Min attends as guest of honour.

  • 1997
    Begins studies with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, which he concludes in 2002.

  • 1999
    Decisive career breakthrough in August with his dramatic last-minute substitution for an indisposed André Watts at the Ravinia Festival's "Gala of the Century", playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

  • 2001
    Makes sold-out Carnegie Hall début in April to great critical acclaim playing the Grieg Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony under Yuri Temirkanov. In June Lang Lang travels to Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch for a tour celebrating the orchestra's 100th anniversary, during which he performs to an audience of 8000 at the Great Hall of the People.
    BBC Proms début in August, playing Rachmaninov's Third Concerto - The Timesof London's critic writes: "Lang Lang took a sold-out Albert Hall by storm...This could well be history in the making."

  • 2001/02
    Recital débuts at London's Wigmore Hall, Washington's Kennedy Center and the Louvre in Paris. Makes his subscription-concert débuts with the New York Philharmonic and London Philharmonic, both with Christoph Eschenbach, under whose baton he also tours Europe with the NDR Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg. Performs with the NHK Symphony Orchestra under Charles Dutoit in concerts broadcast on NHK Television throughout Japan.

  • 2002
    In July at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival he becomes the first recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award in recognition of his exceptional musical talent. He is featured in a weeklong residency with five concerts at the Ravinia Festival.

  • 2002/03
    Lang Lang joins the New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel for performances in New York, followed by a tour of Asia. Plays in concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall and on tour in the Midwest with Franz Welser-Möst. Other engagements include appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, the Pittsburgh Symphony and Mariss Jansons, and the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch. His recitals take him across North America as well as to Europe and Asia.

  • 2003
    Makes his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon in February: the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn First Concertos, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
    Tours China in August with concerts and recitals. Festival appearances include performing the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto at the opening concert of the BBC Proms with Leonard Slatkin at the Albert Hall, as well as Mostly Mozart (for the first time), Aspen, Tanglewood (with the Boston Symphony), Ravinia (with the Chicago Symphony), Saratoga (with the Philadelphia Orchestra), Blossom (with the Cleveland Orchestra), Verbier, Schleswig-Holstein and the Ruhr Piano Festival.
    In November Lang Lang makes his triumphant Carnegie Hall recital début, which is recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon and released on CD and DVD in 2004.
    During the course of the season, he plays this programme (Schumann, Haydn, Schubert, Tan Dun, Chopin, Liszt) all over the world.

  • 2004
    His orchestral appearances include the Philadelphia (Eschenbach), Los Angeles Philharmonic (Marin Alsop), London Philharmonic (Vladimir Jurowski), Orchestre de Paris (Eschenbach), Israel Philharmonic (Frédéric Chaslin), Staatskapelle Berlin (Barenboim), Mariinsky (Gergiev), Hong Kong Philharmonic (Herbig) and, in June, the closing-night concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker season, with Sir Simon Rattle at the Waldbühne.
    Summer includes a concert tour of Australia and New Zealand, festival appearances in Ravinia and Verbier and a recording for Deutsche Grammophon of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with Valery Gergiev conducting. It will be released in 2005. Makes his recital début at the Berlin Philharmonie in May and a coast-to-coast US recital tour in November. Honoured with the German Echo Awards as "Instrumentalist of the Year".

  • 2004/05
    Appears in Beijing and on an extensive North American tour with the China Philharmonic as well as with numerous leading international orchestras including the New York Philharmonic (Maazel), Detroit Symphony (Neeme Järvi), Atlanta Symphony (Spano), Pittsburgh Symphony (Alsop), Philadelphia (Eschenbach - in Philadelphia and on an Asian tour), Berlin Staatskapelle, Chicago Symphony (Barenboim), Frankfurt Radio Symphony (Wolff), Royal Concertgebouw (Gatti), Munich and Vienna Philharmonic (both with Mehta), London Symphony (Sir Colin Davis), Oslo Philharmonic (Noseda), Maggio Musicale of Florence (Bychkov) and Dresden Staatskapelle (Conlon).
    Solo recitals and performances at summer festivals throughout North America and Europe.

  • 2005/06
    Orchestral engagements already include the Berlin Staatskapelle (Barenboim), New York Philharmonic (Maazel), Swedish Radio Symphony (Honeck, in Stockholm and a Spanish tour) and UBS Verbier Festival Youth orchestras (Zinman, throughout Europe and South America).