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If tinsel town Chopin is to your taste then this is for you. True, Lang Lang can, as they say, ‘get around’. He has mechanical facility and energy in super-abundance; but like Liberace, he takes an alternative route to mega-fame and fortune. His playing is so sugar-coated that it becomes palatable to even the most indifferent and innocent listener.

All this makes Chopin particularly vulnerable. The DVD Lang Lang live in Versailles is uncomfortable viewing as you watch his posturing, star-gazing and arm-waving attempts to act out the emotional life of the music he plays. Hardly the sort of pianist to allow a composer his own voice, he sentimentalises and distorts, reducing Chopin to the level of a Victorian melodrama. Few pianists, presented on film with all the trappings of super-stardom, have shown a more obvious desire to move and be moved, and scarcely a single bar escapes the aura of false glamour.

Free of such a visual assault, the CD Lang Lang in Paris is more acceptable. However, even if Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons are less distorted, they rarely escape the heavy hand of the exhibitionist. This disc is excellently recorded and lavishly presented, yet while the sleeve design wisely concentrates on the music rather than its performance, the reference to ‘a pianist of Lang Lang’s stature’ is unfortunate.

There is no competition for Pavel Kolesnikov’s fluent and aristocratic Tchaikovsky on Hyperion, and any of the many versions of the Chopin Scherzos are preferable to this one.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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