Pianist and international star Lang Lang is performing as soloist with the Concertgebouworkest in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also featured are Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 and the overture to Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, all under the inspirational direction of the Finnish maestro Paavo Järvi.
The Chinese pianist Lang Lang is a phenomenon. He astounds both as a technician and as a charismatic performer, thus attracting a wide audience. It is little wonder that his fans include so many young people and lovers of pop. Lang Lang has the ability to make even a lesser-known piano concerto by the great Beethoven a truly memorable experience. ‘Beethoven is a composer who wrote passion and warmth into his scores,’ says Lang Lang. ‘You have to express desire if you want to play this music. At the same time, it’s important to be extremely accurate. Beethoven is very precise in his notation. That balance between precision and emotion is very delicate.’
Johannes Brahms had such respect for Beethoven that he could hardly get up the nerve to compose symphonies of his own. He would eventually go on to write four of them, however. The Fourth is considered to be the high point of his œuvre and is like a microcosm showcasing his mastery of the symphonic medium. The outer movements contain so many ideas that they could almost be characterised as free-standing symphonies in their own right. In the Fourth, we hear several nods to Brahms’s great idol Beethoven, while the finale is an ode to Bach.
The concert opens with the overture to Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, which is all about amorous adventures at a medieval song contest.