Lang Lang playing Air Piano
The evening opened with an absolutely fantastic performance of Stravinsky's Petrouchka Suite. This is a great orchestral showpiece and the orchestra lived up to its call. There are a number of crazy difficult parts for individual performers, including principal trumpet Justin Bartels. The famous solo was taken at quite a fast temp, but he played it as fluidly as I have ever heard it. Even the orchestral piano part is difficult and that was played flawlessly as well. Conductor Scott O'Neil injected great emotion into the piece. It's the first time I've heard this piece live, and it was great to hear all of Stravinsky's orchestrational details so crisply performed.
Emotion is Lang Lang's middle name. He stepped out onto the stage wearing a leather tuxedo and immediately threw his arms straight up into the air as though he were an Olympic gymnast who had just pegged a landing. The ultimate hambone, I had perviously been let down by the sloppiness of his performances at the Hollywood Bowl on the same piece (Tchaikovsky #1) and at the Grammys when he was outplayed by Herbie Hancock on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. But tonight he played extremely well, apparently he decided to leave his mittens at home and play with all the fingers.
Some of his temp changes were a little crazy; the B theme in the slow movement sounded like someone had set the LP to 78 rpm instead of 33 1/3. But he played beautifully, which great interpretation, and a level of technical perfection that showed he had really been working on the piece. As an encore he played a Chopin Waltz, also at crazy tempos, but the crowd went wild. It was good to see a full house at the Symphony, and Lang Lang did seem very appreciative of the orchestra.