Lang Lang plays Glenn Gould

Lang Lang plays Glenn Gould


norman lebrecht

July 16, 2020

His piano, that is….

Er, moving on…


  • Prix d’excellence says:

    Where is the “soul” in this playing? Goldberg was given a set of pieces by JS Bach to sooth his employer’s insomnia!! This robotic playing would wake the whole neighbourhood! Leave well alone that you have no musical understanding of !

    • M McAlpine says:

      Wrong. The story goes that Bach set the variations for Goldberg to play when his employer couldn’t sleep. They were never intended to lull him to sleep. Especially when played on a harpsichord!

  • Roman says:

    I’ve never understood all of this craze about Lang Lang. Yes, he has some very good performances, but there are plenty of pianists much better than him. And too often Lang Lang just ruins the music given interpretations that are barely listenable.

  • Nick2 says:

    To be fair this video was made in September 2012. The playing is still a mess, though!

  • There’s no event.

  • Nigel Goldberg says:

    It’s a shame.

  • E says:

    Love the photo of Glenn Gould in the background. No clutter, just poise.

  • Ken says:

    This is obscene and illegal in all 50+ states. (Nice hair, Long Long.)

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Sony vs DG = joint venture???

    Sony: Nichinichikonnykonnichi…

    DG: Für Geld machen wir alles…

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Gould’s piano but not his piano stool. Yes, from Gould it’s only the piano.

  • buxtehude says:

    Do you suppose this might have sounded different/better on GG’s Yamaha?

  • Edgar Self says:

    A minority opinion: I love this snippet of the Goldberg Variations and suspect others would too if another name attached to it. The voicing, articulation, and embellishments are worthy of Glenn Gould himself or even of Ste Wanda Landowska, my personal favourite. Instructive and fascinating to see the finger interpolations necessary in reducing the harpsichord’s double manuals to a single keyboard.

    A good word also for the Pnda’s Mozart concertos with Vienna Philharmonic,– absolutely in order and comparable almost with the highest standard I know, Edwin Fischer. I am by no means a slavish Lang Lang follower but gratefully admire playing of this wit and distincrtive originality. It will be interesting to hear his complete Goldbergs one day. Incidentally, I saw Gould play them in San francisco,with his string and chreing gum low chair, remarks, and I tink Sweelinck as encore. Were youthre,Greg Bottini?

    • Gould played in San Francisco on Nov.1/1959. He opened up with the Sweelinck Fantasia, followed by Schoenberg Suite for piano, op.25 and Mozart Sonata no10 in C, K.330. He concluded with the Goldberg Variations.

      • Edgar Self says:

        Thank you very much, Daniel Poulin, for restoring to me details of the program I saw Glenn Gould play at ither Curran or Geary Theatre in San Francisco in 1959, the only time I saw him. I’m ashamed to say I had totally forgotted Schoenberg’s suite and Mozart’s C-major sonata, which I now recall as an xquisie adagio.

        I remember from our previous somewhat chequerd exchange, which I’m grateful you didn’t hold against me, that you are export in Gould’s chronology and repertoire. Again, many thanks. This time I will not forget.

        Some of his fafourite records are of Mozrt’s C-minor concerto, Bach’s D-minor from Leningrad, and his recorded remarks to Russian students. Ivo Pogorelic(h) faid that heaing Gould’s Bach Inventions and Sinfonias on Moscow radio changed his thinking about the piano. They both excelledin Brahms’s three Intermezi Op. 117, which Ivo played as Brahms might have dramt the heart-braking C-sharp minor could sound, while Glenn found a new melody hidden so well in it that even Brahms may have been unaware of. Cordial,good wishes.

      • Edgar Self says:

        Daniel Poulin,–At his Noember 1, 1959, reital in San Francisco, Gould walked on stage carrying his low chair in his left hand, while his right was already raise and point toward the rear of the balcony. In a clear voice, he said, “Would someone up there please close that door. There’s a draft on the stage.” Thanks again for a kin and helpful post with details of his programme.

        • “The draft on the stage” remark is often used by pianists to justify problems. Case in point: shortly after Gould’s death Alexis Weissenberg was in Toronto for a recital at Massey Hall. He opened up with a Bach short work (Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desire) as a tribute to the memory of Gould. He then proceeded to the first major work on his programme, The Liszt Sonata. After a few bars of obvious difficult playing he turned to the audience and said: “There is a draft in the hall; I will stop and return shortly”. He came back and went on with the rest of the scheduled planned pieces, finishing with the Liszt. Without problems, this time.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Dear Edgar,
      I’m so happy to see you posting again! I was a bit concerned….
      I’ll add my positive vote to yours in favor of Lang Lang’s snippet.
      If I had a time machine, Edgar, I would gladly program it to take me to hear Gould perform the Goldbergs in San Francisco, way back when I was (figuratively) in kneepants.
      Might I suggest that you search high and low for Bruno Canino’s 1993 RSI recording of the Goldbergs? I have it on Aura 418-2, and it is my favorite version on piano apart from Gould’s (and I own dozens).
      Amico, what did you mean to type when you wrote “Pnda’s Mozart concertos with Vienna Philharmonic”?
      I also love Fischer, and Casadesus with Szell, and Gulda with Abbado, but none of those greats recorded the entire run of Mozart concerti.
      I have the complete set by Lili Kraus with Simon on a twelve-LP set on Columbia Special Products, and I think it is beautiful. The orchestra was certainly not up to the level of The Cleveland, but it is certainly attuned to the soloist, and Kraus is beyond compare.
      – best regards, Greg

  • Danny says:

    What is wrong with this thread? What’s the point here? All you snobs are what is wrong with classical music.

    • Andy says:

      sorry to upset you Lang Lang, but we have ears.

    • Grittenhouse says:

      Being knowledgeable is not being a snob. The over-promotion of Chinese pianists (at the behest of the Chinese government, no doubt, with their money) has been damaging to classical music overall. The Chinese figure if they can dominate classical music, the highest achievement of the Western World, then they have conquered the world. They tried to take over the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, who thankfully resisted them. They tried to buy Westminster Arts Academy, and have effectively purchased the Curtis Institute of Music and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

      • mikhado says:

        You seem to be knowledgeable of the Phila music scene. Are you a CIM Alum as well and were you there during the “Asain invasion” in the early 80’s?

      • Guest says:

        “…and have effectively purchased the Curtis Institute of Music and the Philadelphia Orchestra”. — That is an exact point to the question “why” are the others noticeable and brilliant piano students weren’t so promoted at the Curtis time as Lang Lang- Yuja Wang (not to mention younger ones as Hanchent Zang and Ran Jia, who were also Gary Graffman’s students ), unfear time here taken broadly 1995 – 2010 too many:

        Andrius Zlabys and Ieva Jokubaviciute from Lithuania (Seymour Lipkin and Claude Frank),
        Christina Anum Dorhuso (from Odessa, Ukraine) and Claire Huangci (born in US from Chinese immigrants parents), both studies with Eleanor Sokoloff and Gary Graffman,
        Yekwon Sunwoo (Korea) and Roman Rabinovich (Uzbekistan, Israel, studies with Lipkin and after Lipkin’s death with Claude Frank),

        from USA students were:
        Andrew Tyson (Claude Frank)
        Christopher Falzone⟨†⟩(studies Leon Fleisher, Claude Faran and took monthly lessons with Gary Graffman)
        Eric Zuber (Léon Fleisher, Claude Frank)

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    So what?
    A rather pale imitation of Gould with a few extra
    ornaments performed by a hugely overhyped pianist.

  • Grittenhouse says:

    Okay, his hands look more rounded, supple and relaxed than Yuja’s, but he also is raising his knuckles above the palm of his hand, using the lower section of the fingers like hammers. That is also likely to lead to tendonitis, unless you are double-jointed, like Wanda Landowska.

  • anonymous player says:

    I once played Rach 2 with Lang Lang on a Sunday and flew somewhere else the next morning and rehearsed the same concerto with Andrew Watts Monday afternoon. I remember thinking that the former’s playing made the concerto sound like music from Looney Tunes, and the latter’s, noble art.

  • Edgar Self says:

    aprisyi! e mille grazie, caro gregorio. It’s good to be bacK. Lang Lang = Ling Ling = Panda. His Sony 2-CD 2014 Mozart Album hols K. 471 in C minor, cadenz Lili Kraus-Lang Lang; K,453 in G, Mozart adenzas; sonatas K. 282 _Landowska!), 283, anf A minor (Rosita Renard!); and two little-known early pieces. Very much an Edwin Fischer with two of his best conertos and typical inconabulae. A luxury to hear the VPO in this repertoire, which they didn’t record as often as I wish: Previn C minor, Bernstein G and B-flat, Badura-Skoda’s Westminster LPs.


    I hcw Lili Kraus’s complete box; she is one of the best: I saw her play three of them in 19r6at Ojai Festival ear Solvang with Ingolf Dahl, out of doors, hot, blessed, including the earliest great concerto, K. 271 i E-flat, great tragic C-minor adagio that Myra Hesss and Csals do so well. David Fray, Muti’s son-in-law, has several outstanding Mozart concertos and plays Edwin Fischer’s cadenzas. Rubinstein and Krips are very good but could have been still better. Best in the C minor is Edwin Fischer with Lawrence Collingwood c. 1935, plus live on tour 1954-1955 with Danish Chambr Orchestra when I saw them play their program in Heidelberg, the only time I saw Edwin Fischer play.

    these, Mihelangeli Marc-Andre Hamelin’s K. 453 with his marvelous cadenza,, lara Haskill, Annie Fischer, and a few others are my best. I’ve never heard Bruno Canino play; his goldberg’s go on my shopping list on your recommendation. Even in kne- pants in 1959, your musical taste woud have been unerring, Greg, one of the delights of this forum. Solti is dramatic in the D-minor and told the engineers they must accept his rushing “because I’m scared, and if I don’t rush I won’t get through it at all.” Bruno Walter’s is fallible, old-fashioned, but tender; he plays Carl Reinecke’s cadenza. And so it goes. I’m not reading this over, my seeing- eye person is asleep, please forgive typos and read creatively.

    I . in which the piano jumps in after six notes from the orchestra, and a delicious minuet with five variations in the finale. She conducted herself with her idle left hand when possible. I saw her again with orchestra in San Francisco, Bethoven second concerto I think, and two recitals there and in Berkeley.

    • Edgar Self says:

      First word of above post should be Sapristi, an Italian word invariably prefacing the humanist Ludovico settembrini’s peddagogical expostulationss to the innocent child of life Hans Castrp in Thomas Mann’s Zauberberg, or Magic Mountain”, following publication,of which in 1924 earned him the 1929 Nobel Prize i Literature , although Professor Bork of the Swedish Academy stipulated it was for “Buddenbrooks”.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Three Mozart concertos played by Ste. Wanda Landowska mercifilly on the piano, not haerpsichord, belong on the Wall of Thought also: Nos. 13 and 22 live with NYPO and Artur Rodzinski, and No. 26 “Coronation” with Walter Goehr an chamber orchestra that HMV recorded for the British dougle ccoronation yearof Edward VIII and George VI. God bless Fred Gaisberg!

    Landowska of course plays her own cadenzas, lead-ins, and so may capricious embellishments and interpolations that on some pages Mozart scarcely gets a note of his own in edgewise. She plays as if she owns them, whivh in s drndr dhr fif, but although I couldn’t sleep if they weren’t under the roof, I prefer Edwin Fischeer’soberer No. 22, free, passionate, tender, right-headed and -hearted, but also giddily vertiginous and proprietary enough as well. He recorded only the double and Nos. 17, 20, 22, 24 and 25. Only! There’s an air-check o quintette for piano and winds that R. Sekin and Philadelphia first deskmen do best, Gieseking, Hough, and Fischer not withsetanding. qhix, several sonatas, rondeeaux, and odd rarities, some very odd indeed like K. Rubinstein and Wallensgekn are best in No. 23’s rare F-sharp minor siciliano, but I don’t like Mozar’s tired cadenza, and neither did Vladimir Hoeoqitz. There’s an old Erno von Dohnanyi No. 17 in G from Buda-Ppesth that Irving Kolodin liked better than Edwin Fischer’s but I don’t believe him and have never heard it. Does anyone know it? Alexis Weussenberg surprisingly recorded several Mozart concerti; he had studied with Wanda Landowska for a time and like her had a steel-trap technique, sewing-machine trills and was a very good Bach player. His Bach-Busoni chaconne is one of the few tow stand with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahis three-speed running chorale “Rejoice, Beloved Christians is so incredibly fast and articulated that it nearly ends in a twisted-finger train wreck. Hillary alert!

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Amico mio Edgardo,
      The Solti story elicited a laugh-out-loud from me!
      I also prefer Landowska on the piano. The harpsichord, due of course to its design, does not allow subtleties of touch/dynamics. And Madame L possessed those subtleties in spades!
      Yes, Sigi’s (non-hyphenated) Bach is tremendous. His Bach-Busoni Chaconne is, and I’m taking your word for it, is at the Michelangeli level. I admire it on a certain plane, but I non-shamefully admit that I am not a fan of hyphenated Bach.
      The first recording I ever had (or heard) of the Mozart d-minor concerto was Bruno Walter’s. I adored it and wore out that old DaCapo LP, which I still possess. I’ve grown a bit wiser since then (only just a bit) and I now prefer others, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for old Bruno’s old #20.
      I really enjoyed Rubinstein’s Mozart concerti recordings with Wallenstein and Krips. They’re all collected on a 2-CD set, fancily packaged in “The Rubinstein Edition”. I haven’t listened to them in some time; I’m going to dig them out and give them a spin.
      I’ve never been a big fan of Serkin for the same reason that I don’t care for Horowitz: they both produced very uningratiating sounds on the piano, at least on recordings. But I’ve played a mind game with myself regarding Serkin’s Mozart concerti with Szell: I just tell myself that he’s playing a fortepiano. Voila!
      I have not heard Marc-Andre Hamelin play Mozart, but I heard him play Iberia at the Herbst. Stunning! Have you been able to locate Leopoldo Querol’s recording of the work? AFAIK, it’s most recently been on an EMI Introuvables 2-CD issue.
      BTW, I think I figured out what you meant when you typed “Pnda’s Mozart concertos with Vienna Philharmonic”. Geza Anda did indeed record all the Mozart concerti, deliciously so, but he was with the Camerata Academica Salzburger Mozarteum, not the Vienna Phil. I have a few of the LP issues from the complete set; way back in the day a friend had the big DGG box set of all of them, and I was suitably envious.
      Ciao, caro….

  • Edgar Self says:

    very good Weissenberg story, Daniel Poulin thank you; He evdently made a practice of this. The only time I saw him play, in the 90s at the Chicago Theater, an unusual venue for classical music here, especially recitas. It’s hung with miles of velvet drapery, like rhw Auditoriu Theatre used chiefly for ballet and visiting Shakespeare troupes

    Weissenberg appeared, saturnine, inscrutable, played his opening work, a Bach suite I happened to be sitting with Howard Reich, then the Tribune’s” jazz reviewer and now suddessor to its classical critic John on Rhein. It’s not far from Reich to Rhein; Howd is doing a good job but before Coid’s Metamorphosis was working himself to death coering both We compared notes. I had the sensation of hearing everything twice in the “affanato” suffocating ambience.

    Weissenberg had retired from the stage and was a long time returning. When he did, he said he reluctantly had to cancel the blance of his recital due to acoustical problems He said he had been on the telephone with his agent in New York and had made the call. the theater emptied quickly, but Howard and I continued to talk until refunds were announced. It’s a bad omen when the usher says “Enjoy the show, folks” showing you to your perch.

    Weissenberg is unpredictable; just when you expect his best, say in Brahms first or Rachmaninoff third, he disappoints. He is still one of the most interesting pianists whether accompanying Nicolai Gedda in Rachmaninoff songs,playing Mozart concerti, or Bach transcriptionsy. He was one of Karajan’s favourites, both of Balkan origin, back to Greek in K.’s case, both connected to Paantcho Vladeriguerov, “Bulgaria’s greatest composer.” But of COURSE! Who denighes of it? ∑. studied with Landowska; it shows.

  • I hope they retained a priest to exorcise the poor piano when Lang departed.

  • Edgar Self says:

    regorio caro, I’ve not been able to follow up on Leopoldo Querol’s “Iberia
    as I’ve been in hospital or three weeks. I move from Iberia to Siberia and am nearly full up on Iaberias, which are so densely writeen as to make heavy going except for “Evocacion” from Esteban Sanchez, Cortot’s old “triana”, and a few others, always led by Rubinstein’s insuperable “Navarra”, any of his three. But I will get to it, Greg, for I trust and value your recommendation.

    Serkin’s best Mozart is the wind quintet, better thanGieseking/Brin, Hough/BPO, or Edwin Fischer’s disappointing relic in poor sound.

    I envy you hearing Hamelin play Iberia. I have only the records but have talked to him about it and navarra, with the extension and new ending William Bolcom wrote for him. Rubinstein’s Navarra for me is insuperable, though his own edition to put it mildly, any of his three.

  • Edgar Se.f says:

    Wanda Landowski on piano is affecting, even startling Mozart sonatas, Haydn, Coronation concerto, Nos.26. 22. and 13; her Lanner waltzes and surprising Beethoven marche funebre sonata No. 12 on piano rolls.

    But I couldn’t face life without her harpsichor Goldbergs, 1946, Italian Concerto, Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Prince Oginski’s polonaise, and a Chopin mazurka! Haydn’s D major concerto with her cadenza, only Brandenburg Five is missing, and even she couldn’t bring CPE Bach’s concerto to life, her one failure.

    If I’d been 50 yers younger I’d have proposed to her, as Moiseiwitsch did Myra Hess, but neither would haveworked out. I’ll keep my beride of 53 years, a disorganized, illogical Bavarian. Men marry what they Need; I marry you, John Ciardi wrote. I don’t mean you personally, but figuratively. Go figure. I know you know rhese Landowska records. They were the first beautiful import HMV labels I bought after thoe war, and she is one of the several artists whose total discography I collect.

  • Edgar Self says:

    A final word on Lang Lang’s 2-CD Sony Mozart album with the Vienna Philharmonic and Harnoncourt: Concertos 22 in E flat and 24 in Cminor, three sonatas, four pieces, and the fastest “Rondo alla Turca” I’ve heard, live, to rival Landowska, Fazil Say, and Arcady Volodos.

    The A-minor sonata is in the severe dynamic rapid manner of Rosita Renard and lingers in memory days after, nervous, mercurial, Protean, volatile, all in a good way. This severe Mozart includes a prelude and fugue in C that R. Serkin played; “Mauerische Trauermusik that choked up Bruno Walter Schlesinger just to talk about; the beautiful Adagio and Fugue in C minor that Karajan put on record early with VPO, late with BPO strings in a Montreux church on a DGG “Adagio” compilation and is I think one of his best records. He always sounds like a different man in Vienna;– Haydn symphonies, German Requiem, the Creation,– in this he is like Reiner, Monteux, Bernstein, and Szell; and most powerfully in the late Fantasia and Fugue in F minor for clockwork mechanical organ that transcribes beautifully for strings or two pianos. There was a 10″ MGM LP I think by Arthur Winograd with string ensemble that was outstanding, as is this Mozart recital by Lang Lng. His two concertos are almost in the top echelon of Edwin Fischer, Michelangeli Gould, Lili Kraus, Rubinstein, Schnabel, Landowska. Yes, they really sound that good to me, if only the VPO oboe were a bit stronger., and some inner voices and counterpoints brought out as Edwin Fischer does. Hskil and Annie Fischer are almost in this group in my estimate.

    Lang Lang is never less than very good in all these, eminently respectable, lacking only the final refinement steeped in Austro-German tradition to place him in the highest rank. the four odd pieces, some of them very odd and early, are a special pleasure.

    Occasionally the line disappears and the Rococo figurine unintrudes, but rarely. It’s playing of a very high order, almost exceptionable, and without obvious fults. I eadstill enjoying and noticing newdetails at third hearing. ∫jt as with Horowitz’s 23rd concrtto with Giulini, a few embellishments sound unnecessart and not quite convincing, although Einleitungen and cadenzas are mostly good.