Chopin News, Reviews, and Previews:

Though Hyde did appear, Lang Lang mostly Jekyll
Chicago Tribune – United States

Chicago critic decides there are two sides – or perhaps two personas – in the Chinese virtuoso:

More and more I am convinced there are two Lang Langs. Both commanded the stage of Orchestra Hall at the Chinese superstar pianist’s sold-out recital Sunday.

There is Lang Lang the Maturing Musician, the 25-year-old artist who, under the regular tutelage of Daniel Barenboim , is learning to place his immense technical gifts at the service of art.

Then there is Lang Lang the Barnstorming Virtuoso, the compulsive showman who dazzles the gallery by playing things louder and faster than anyone else, simply because he can.

This Jekyll and Hyde act sometimes can throw up a barrier between the listener and the music, and one never quite knows which persona will pop up next.

For example, Lang Lang ended his program with a torrential tear through Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise (A-flat Major, Opus 53) that only succeeded in vulgarizing the piece, although the crowd loved it. This was followed by an encore, Chopin’s Etude in E (Opus 10, No. 3), that was similarly hectic in the middle pages but ineffably tender in the outer sections. Go figure.

Clearly, Lang Lang can deliver remarkably sensitive playing when he is in the mood to channel his inner poet. Fortunately, much of Sunday’s recital found him in the mood…

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Evgenia plays Chopin with both elegance and great subtlety
Huddersfield Examiner – Huddersfield,UK

“Our Correspondent” in Huddersfield likes how Evgenia Rubinova and the Opera North Orchestra work together..

Chopin’s First Piano Concerto is therefore something of a surprise, for its rippling delicacy and orchestral restraint.

Perhaps the latter factor is not unexpected. Chopin was, after all, a renowned pianist, and would have wanted the orchestra in a subservient role. Even so, the almost minimalist nature of much of the orchestral scoring is notable, and probably presents particular technical challenges.

Conducted by Frédéric Chaslin, the Orchestra of Opera North displayed admirable restraint and clarity of texture during Saturday’s performance of the Chopin concerto, although the musicians made the most of their opportunities, when announcing themes at the beginning of movements, for example.

The soloist was the prize-winning Evgenia Rubinova, who obviously has the full range of technical accomplishments, but she displayed no pianistic bombast in her performance. Instead she brought out the elegance and the improvisatory qualities of Chopin’s writing. It was a subtle performance, all the more musical because there was no hint of showing off.

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Chopin in the Moonlight, Drenched in History Yet Fresh in the West
New York Times – United States

A New York Times review the considers both the performance, and the history of the ballet Chopiniana, as presented in by the Kirov Ballet…

“Chopiniana” which opened the Kirov’s recent quadruple bill at City Center of ballets by Michel Fokine, is 100 years old this year. This is the plotless, Romantic dream-world, poet-muse ballet that used to be known — very well known — in the West as “Les Sylphides,” the title Diaghilev gave it in 1909 when he also gave it a different overture and a new décor, by Alexandre Benois. It was said to be Diaghilev’s favorite ballet, and for decades it was the epitome of what many dancegoers wanted from ballet: atmosphere, romanticism, poetry. [….]

Though these Kirov performances weren’t ideal, they were in basic respects exemplary: no soppiness, just focused evocation of the changing moods of this moonlit nocturne. “Chopiniana,” by far the richest of Fokine’s pure-dance compositions, is brimming with history. He had been inspired by an all-Chopin recital given by Isadora Duncan on her 1904-5 visit to St. Petersburg, including some of the same music here; you can still feel her rapturous way of carrying gestures around the stage and her way of turning simple runs, walks and poses into images of inspiration. […]

“Chopiniana” in turn became the archetype of a whole 20th-century genre of ballet in which the prime subject was the music. Without its kaleidoscope of moods, the Chopin ballets of Jerome Robbins would probably have never happened; his “Dances at a Gathering” is its radical update. Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “Emeralds” are especially indebted to its Romantic groupings.

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Review: Illinois Symphony Orchestra performance a playful one
Springfield State Journal Register – Springfield,IL,USA

Meanwhile, another Springfield-based symphony (see yesterday’s post) gets into the Chopin concerto swim with soloist Sa Chen..

Chen was this season’s latest guest-artist pianist who was a finalist or winner at 2005’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The technical oomph of Chopin’s concerto (the first he wrote but the second he published) could make it hard to channel its warmth, but Chen found incredible nuance even as the concerto grew impossibly fast.

Chen’s voracious approach was fitting given her pronounced pounce before each segment. Her force matched the concerto’s flourishes and each cascade was a stunner. Her lyricism truly dazzled in the larghetto movement, evocative of a love discovered. Bass-clef strikes sounded like shouts of affection, while trilled upper-register notes felt like heart flutters. Closing with a mazurka (a Polish folk dance), Chen proved her talent wasn’t just in amazing technique, but in the touches of emotion.

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