Lang Lang Plays Bach (finally)

Lang Lang has recorded and released two versions of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

I love both Bach and Lang Lang. In Toronto, I even had the great pleasure of seeing Lang Lang live. I’ll never forget it. His concert was part of a program that offered extremely cheap tickets and a friend and I got into the habit of attending various classical shows. Only three performances have really stuck with me: One was of a symphony by Witold Lutoslawski and I’ve never found a recording of his work that does justice to seeing and hearing it live, another was a waltz by I can’t remember who –but it was an anti-war and anti-bourgeois values song where the waltz kept descending into chaos, it might have been Shelling’s “Victory Ball” but I’m really not sure– and the third was Lang Lang.

The Lang Lang performance was odd. Really odd. He was well regarded but it just didn’t seem that great. He ended his performance to unenthusiastic support. Then, you could just kind of see he was unhappy with this response. There was the sort of an air of “don’t these people know I’m Lang Lang?” So he decided to show us. He did another song. One that was supposed to be reserved for the expensive performance the next night.

And Holy Dark Lord Satan! This mother fucker suddenly turned into some sort of classical Jerry Lee Lewis. Even without the sound, the acrobatics would have been impressive. (It’s no wonder he’s injured his arm.) With the sound? It was like getting hit with a wave of lava. Just pyrotechnic emotion. The crowd lost its damn mind. Standing ovation. And not just a polite one either. We might have been shouting. High fives may have been exchanged in the convert hall. Who really knows what happens when you let us in. But I know this — I’ve never forgotten the name Lang Lang.

The knock on Lang Lang is that he’s tasteless. Might be true. I don’t know. I don’t care. Good taste is boring. That’s both the strength and the weakness of good taste. If liking Lang Lang makes me some sort of crass vulgarian, I’ll live. I’m just some dude who saw him on the cheap and had my goddamn socks blown off. He’s great. Really great. And he’s not boring. If he’s ever in your town, make the time.

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