Lang Lang: Liszt "My Piano Hero"

Lang Lang's homage to his piano hero lacks subtley but his performance of Liszt pieces is exciting and his playing exquisite

Composer: Liszt
Repertoire: ‘My Piano Hero’, including: La Campanella; Consolation No.3; Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos 6 & 15 (arr. Horowitz); Liebestod (Wagner-Liszt); Piano Concerto No.1
Artists: Lang Lang (pf), Vienna Philharmonic/ Valery Gergiev
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral/Instrumental
Label: Sony 88697 891402

The Music: Alternating the lyrical Liszt with the bravura, Lang Lang’s tribute to his ‘piano hero’ mixes old favourites with some lesser-known pieces, transcriptions with original works – and rounds off with the high octane First Piano Concerto.

The Performance: There is some quite exquisite playing here (Consolation No 3, ‘Un sospiro’ and the rarely heard Romance ‘Ô pourquoi donc’ that opens the programme), and bursts of electrifying dexterity (Grand gallop chromatique and Hungarian Rhapsody No.6). The First Concerto is exciting and hard driven though not without a real sense of repose where required. But, if you’re interested, compare Lang Lang with Liszt virtuosi of earlier times, such as Horowitz and Cziffra, and a keen ear will reveal what is lacking: tonal finesse and subtlety (listen to Horowitz playing the Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos 6 and 15).

The Verdict: Love him or loathe him, it is hard to remain indifferent to Lang Lang. If a newcomer, or indeed an impressionable youngster, were to experience Liszt’s music for the first time through this disc it could prove to be a door opener.

Want More? Lang Lang’s first recording for Sony was a superb live recital in Vienna with works by Beethoven, Albéniz, Chopin and Prokofiev (88697 719029).