In case you haven’t noticed, Lang Lang’s latest reviews from London are well, not the best Some might say that they show a high degree of disgust with the performance. Dionysos Dervis-Bournias of the Huffington Post examines not so much the artist, but the reviewers.
This same onanistic pleasure brims in reviews of Lang Lang’s recent London concerts. I was not present, so the material I have before me is not Lang Lang but this pen quartet: Tim Ashley of The Guardian, Michael Church of The Independent, Geoff Brown of The Times, and John Allison of The Telegraph. They are my soloists, and it is their playing that interests me, this pleasure of detestation that harmoniously binds their ensemble.
Whether one adores or detests Lang Lang is something as personal as tastes and colours. Trying to convince the upholders of one position as to the validity of the contrary position is more a matter of metaphysical proselytising, which is not exactly my cup of tea. But there is a factual verity in this machine of passionate fantasies that our pianist henceforth embodies: it was not marketing professionals who discovered him but Christoph Eschenbach and Daniel Barenboim ! According to them, he impressed them more than any other young pianist. They took him under their wing and guided him. They were his Masters and spent hours teaching him their repertoire. The marketing came afterwards, much later.
Thus, Lang Lang, whom everyone has the right to detest, is not a marketing product; it’s the marketing (aggressive, annoying, often ridiculous) that is one of the Lang Lang epiphenomena. Forgetting that seems to me the greatest of impostures! Just like forgetting this incredible scene from his childhood when his father, a complex, decisive figure, ordered him to commit suicide were he to fail. Playing the piano to save your skin is something quite different from playing to caress your narcissism and go beyond the petit-bourgeois problem of good taste in art. And those things, the public senses. ‘Horowitz is not narcissistic, he’s sincere,’ Radu Lupu told me politely but firmly when, some twenty years ago, I had tried to be clever by criticising one Legend before another.