Historic Events and Festivals


                                                              Tuesday 20 March - Friday 23 March 2012

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                                                          langlang2012 l


Viewpoint:

I'm not an experienced evaluator of pianists and it has to be said that I'm not sufficiently learned or technically advanced to be able to tender much of a critique as far as Lang Lang's performance is concerned, but I can tender my observations from the point of view of an audience member I guess.

On the first night (20th March), I had a reasonable seat close to the stage and at ground level. For this I paid almost sixty quid, or as it is becoming universally known, 60 GBP (I hate this Great Britain Pound nonsense). Despite being close to the stage, I wasn't able to get good photos of Lang Lang because he wouldn't stand still for long enough, so what I do have are motion blurred (see below). It wasn't permitted, nor would it have been appropriate to use flash on the camera, so in the available light, the shutter speed is relatively low, hence the movement. As the photo below suggests, when Lang Lang was actually playing, he was virtually out of shot to me because the piano's raised top was blocking my view of him.

As I looked up the five floors to the circle, I thought there was no way they could hear anything - the hall is huge and the people are a mile high, but the following night, the much cheaper seat that I'd purchased  placed me up there and although the view was bad and the seats extremely uncomfortable, the sound of the piano and orchestra was every bit as good as it was at ground level. The piano was of course, the ubiquitous Steinway Model D. Some model D's sound nicer than others and this one sounded extremely beautiful; but no wonder; I saw it being tuned four times. The technician was tuning it when I arrived and he did it again during the interval - same the following night.

           View from the ground on Tuesday                            The only half decent shot of Lang Lang I could get

 The hall was originally meant to be called 'The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences', but Queen Victoria was having none of that. When she lay the foundation stone as a dedication to her late husband, Consort Prince Albert, she named the hall, The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences. The Albert Memorial is directly across the road (Kensington Gore) from the hall.

I've been to a wide range of musical genres at this hall, ranging from a Tchaikovsky night, to the BBC Proms, to an organ recital and even a pop concert by Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1988. I believe I heard Lang Lang say that this is his favourite concert hall in the world. Indeed, whenever he's in it, it's always full. When he did his solo concert in 2008 one Sunday afternoon (I was there), it was said that this concert amassed the largest audience of any concert in the Albert Hall. On that occasion, Lang Lang did what had only ever been done once before and that was by the Russian, Evgenny Kissin back in 1997, he gave a solo recital at the BBC Proms. It's a pity there isn't more of this because it represents value for money from a pianist. Usually, pianists come on stage, play one concerto then go home, leaving the audience to be entertained by the orchestra for the rest of the evening, whereas with


Albert Memorial

Lang Lang and Evgeny Kissin,  the entire programme consists of just the pianist.  Even on the occasions of this week, Lang Lang played two concertos per evening. They were Beethoven one and four on Tuesday and two and three were on Wednesday. It seems clear to me that many people in the auditorium on both nights that I was there, had either never been to concerts before or had only ever seen Lang Lang at his solo recitals because they seemed to be unaware of concert etiquette. They were applauding after each movement. The members of the orchestra and the conductor appeared to be less than pleased about this and I must say, I haven't encountered it very often previously. There was one disturbing moment last year (2011) at Lang Lang's Massed Piano Event in the Royal Festival Hall when a ten year old girl called Faye Evans was playing the Chopin Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp Minor; half way through the piece, the audience thought it was all over so they started to clap. Then the girl continued to play and I was amazed at how she kept her nerve and calmly  proceeded through that. Full marks to Faye (whose page is on this site somewhere).

How is Lang Lang changing with time? I think he's - what can we say, growing up, maturing somewhat. I don't know if I'm overly enamoured by that. Perhaps his playing is maturing but I quite liked his trendy image of earlier times. Now, gone is the spikey hair, and so are the chat breaks with the audience, also gone is the encore. Although the crowds on both nights were calling for more, there were no Chopin Etudes or Nocturnes thrown in as a bonus, something we'd gotten used to previously.

 

I always saw Lang Lang as an escape from the stuffiness that accompanies classical piano and has done since the beginning of time. It's a snob's paradise and I, being a lowly working class guy whose father was a coal miner with no musical interest whatsoever, feel like a fish out of water when I'm in it. I rub shoulders with people whom I never previously dreamed I'd ever share the same building with. I suppose this image volte-face is the future because I am tempted to believe that most, if not all of the children whose pages comprise this website are in no way snobbish, in fact, from what I observe, they are the nicest kids that anyone could ever wish to meet; no airs and graces, no 'look at me I'm better than you' nonsense.

View from the circle on Wednesday

 I suspect Lang Lang has been instrumental (pun!) in turning this corner because he has become an idol to millions of children and young people around the world. He was pulling classical piano away from all that class supremacy that was espoused by the likes of Baremboim and those who arrange piano competitions such as the Leeds. It might be true to say that he is the most popular musician of any genre on the planet today, possibly even more popular than the Beatles were in the 1960s.Who would have thought this - a Chinese guy who plays western classical music on pianos could be more popular than any rock or pop musicians from the western world. I was amazed at the number of young Chinese girls in the Albert Hall on both nights. Only a few years ago, the playing of western music was a criminal offence in China.

When I first saw Lang Lang, which was the solo Prom, he was heavily castigated by the critics of newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, who pulled no punches when they bemoaned his flamboyance and trendy proclivity, so I hope he is not aiming to succumb to this manipulation attempt. After all, the real critics are the audience members and they keep turning up in droves, so who cares about the newspapers?

What is my final preference of concert styles of Lang Lang? Well, it's a tough one because, as I said, he performed two concertos on each of the two evenings I was there, so even by doing this, he still gives value for money, viz. a good evening's entertainment, but if I had to choose, I think I'd prefer the solo shows. Maybe I'd like to see Evgeny Kissin do one too, because he is still touring the world doing this. He's fully booked up with mainly solo recitals until October 2014. I'll have to catch him at London's Barbican Centre in November this year if I'm to enjoy such an experience. Furthermore, it was nice to see Lang Lang's dad who came on to play a couple of pieces with him. He was playing some strange looking ancient Chinese fiddle of some sort, but what it shows is that the relationship between Lang Lang and his dad is good and forgiving - no grudges carried over the rift of earlier years.   ... Bill Ross

 My concert trip to Arizona!

by

Umi Garrett

 

Hi, everyone! Welcome to my blog about trip to Arizona! I stayed at a wonderful hotel called Phoenician. Arizona has really nice weather and lots of cactuses. I really enjoy staying here and I had a lot of fun! I performed here last night at the camelback ballroom. They provided me a beautiful Steinway grand piano. :) I was so glad that everyone enjoyed the concert. I had a lot of fun performing! I also got to attend an after the concert party and played games of air hockey with Mr. Bill. He is really nice!

And I had a pizza with Dany, my friend. The concert was so exciting with really great audiences! I REALLY loved playing for them! I really wish I could see them all again. And I definitely want to visit here again!

Love,
Umi (=^x^=)

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