Lang Lang is definitely a highlight of Seattle Symphony’s 2013-2014 season opening night concert, but it couldn’t have been successful without the Symphony’s Music Director Ludovic Morlot’s excellent programming and conducting. With Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, the concert warmly welcomed all to a new season with a festive celebration of classical music.

Lang LangLang Lang is definitely a highlight of Seattle Symphony’s 2013-2014 season opening night concert, but it couldn’t have been successful without the Symphony’s Music Director Ludovic Morlot’s excellent programming and conducting. With Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, the concert warmly welcomed all to a new season with a festive celebration of classical music.  

Antonin Dvořák’s Dances immediately engaged the audience into a classical music delight. Two of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances were presented. Both were short, but full of energy.

Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances included a suite of 7 short pieces, which varied widely in tempo and mood, covering an emotional range from nostalgia to festiveness. Influenced by tunes from Transylvania, Romanian Folk Dances has a distinctive folk “accent”-exotic and refreshing to the audience.  

Associate Conductor Stilian Kirov led the orchestra in Toccata Op. 26, No. 5 by noted Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov. Like other dance music performed at the night, the piece featured high energy.

Morlot took over to lead three Hungarian Dances orchestrated by Johannes Brahms. Following the Hungarian Dances was Alexander Borodin’s famous Polovtsian Dances from “Prince Igor”, featuring the Seattle Symphony Chorale. In addition to having various folk tunes, the vocal performance added variety to the concert.

After the intermission the long-awaited Lang Lang presented his internationally known virtuosity in piano performance with Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Lang Lang’s performance with the Symphony was seamless with a wonderful coordination between Lang Lang and Morlot.

Lang Lang definitely made classical music hip. With his hands constantly soaring and plunging into the keyboard, he successfully impressed the audience and made it seem as if classical music can yet be pop. Nevertheless, some would agree that there was a lack of emotion in Lang Lang’s performance. There was a ton of energy and sparks, but not enough intimacy with the music. If a good musician is one that dives into a deep conversation with tempo, lyrics, and instrument, Lang Lang might be better respected as a drilled performer than a great musician.

When the Japanese pianist Tsujii Nobuyuki performed last season at Seattle Symphony’s Celebrate Asia, the audience stood up and clapped with tears in their eyes. You could feel Nobuyuki’s emotion even when you closed your eyes and just listened to his music. On the other hand, Lang Lang impressed the audience with visual sensations, more so than heart-touching intimacy with his music.

Overall the opening night was a success with an inviting note from Morlot and the Symphony. The Symphony hosts a “free day of music” at Benaroya Hall on September 22nd, welcoming all to celebrate the Hall’s 15th anniversary with music ranging from Hip Hop to Jazz to Classical to Folk Music on Five Stages. The opening night drew a crowd among which many came for Lang Lang, but we should expect the Symphony to continue presenting fascinating classical music and make it hip.

 

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