In an era where contemporary music and extravagant pop concerts fill people’s lives, a classical concert transcends the current period and reveals pure art's power. I was lucky enough to witness that power at Lang Lang’s concert at the Kennedy Center on February 6th. Returning to Washington D.C. a year after his collaboration with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), “The hottest pianist on the classical music planet,” as stated by The New York Times, presented a solo recital that delighted the entire audience in one hundred minutes and left me with the most memorable classical concert experience in my life so far.
The long-awaited concert began as thousands of people of all ages filled the seats in the Kennedy Center hall. His music and performance attracted his fans, locals, and classical music lovers alike. United by the cross-national appreciation of music, the entire hall locked their eyes on the Steinway piano—the single object in front of them.
Lang Lang took to the stage with the opening act “Arabeske in C major” by Schumann. The term “Arabeske” is a poetic metaphor suggesting a combination of a fluid, organic system of fragments and florid decoration. With his eyes closed and fully immersed in this artistic conception, Lang Lang created a natural flow of feelings and motivation with various ornaments delicately woven throughout. His sensitive articulation of the notes and mature control of dynamics made a relatively slow repertoire a joyful and fulfilling experience.
Playing non-stop for 80 minutes, Lang Lang endowed the audience with this musical epic. He filled the second portion of the concert with Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, which consisted of an aria and 30 variations. The variations contained a mixture of fast and slow movements as he smoothly transitioned from one variation to another. Within each shift, he revitalized the audience by immersing them in a sweeter and more mysterious dreamscape. In certain variations in the middle, Lang Lang illustrated his adept piano skills by modifying notes swiftly while soaring across octaves. Everyone marveled at his technical capabilities and his ability to use his body language to enrich the performance.
After finishing the programmed repertoire, Lang Lang returned for two encores, delighting unexpecting audience members. I was surprised by his piano presentation of “Reflection,” the theme song of the 1998 film Mulan. Here, Lang Lang initiated a cross-cultural conversation with the audience and revealed the power of music to unite people from all over the world. Finally, Lang Lang deeply bowed toward the audience. Immersed in the prolonged applause, he shook hands with a few people sitting at the front.
Lang Lang’s concert at Kennedy Hall symbolized the height of classical performance one could reach. Although his dazzling piano talents repeatedly shocked the audience, his performance went beyond mere skill. The repertoire was just the foundation of his musical philosophy; he created true art and illustrated his understanding of the craft by building on top of the compositions. He almost appears to be more of a painter or an architect who freely manipulates his hands on the piano keys to establish an imaginative world. This multidimensional space allowed the audience to escape reality and enter a colorful dreamscape, in which we traveled between time and space through Lang Lang’s music creation. This is pure art.
Wendi Wang is a first-year in the SFS studying international economics and planning to minor in philosophy and music.