Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26 Bartók
Piano Concerto No.2
Lang Lang (piano)
Sir Simon Rattle
Recorded February & April 2013 in the Philharmonie, Berlin
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL 88883732262 [includes bonus DVD] Duration: 61 minutes [CD] Reviewed: October 2013
Lang Lang, Simon Rattle & Berliner Philharmoniker – Bartók & Prokofiev Piano Concertos [Sony Classical]
Reviewed by Alex Peyton-Jones
I know that Lang Lang divides opinion, and there have been times when his appearances before an adoring fan-club have been made only about him, but he is a marvellous pianist, and seems to have formed a productive alliance with Simon Rattle that brings out the best in him in terms of musicianship.
Recorded under studio conditions in pristine sound and with high production values, this performance of Prokofiev’s ingenious Third Piano Concerto really scintillates, not only in terms of the pianist’s brilliance, and that of the orchestra, but is also imbued with many subtleties of dynamic and nuance. This is a painstaking account, often very thoughtful, in which a close rapport between the musicians is apparent and during which their high-end virtuosity serves only the music.
As for Bartók’s great Second Piano Concerto, surely one of the most challenging works for any pianist, even one with a transcendental technique as possessed by Lang Lang, this receives a blistering account, yet also a considerate one. The first movement, the orchestra without strings, is certainly propulsive and powerful but easeful too in some of the phrasing, and Rattle has long experience in conducting this complex if thrilling and beautiful score. Lang Lang gives a poised performance, no less exciting for being so. The ethereal opening to the central movement is exactly gauged in its otherworldliness, the Berlin strings (their first appearance in this work) very sensitive and withdrawn, to which Lang Lang initially makes just the right half-lit contribution which grows in demonstration and then scintillates in the spectral middle section. The finale is again notable for its character rather than for scoring points through flashiness; certainly Rattle makes sure that the orchestra is given its full due and this is reflected in the recorded sound.
Sony Classical’s presentation includes a behind-the-scenes DVD and film made at the recording sessions.