Lang Lang in Paris – Chopin: The 4 Scherzi; Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Op 37a

Reviewed on Mon 04 Jan, 2016

A greater degree of nuance and individuality is evident in Lang Lang’s performance of the twelve Tchaikovsky vignettes, one for each month of the year, each mixing memorable melody with character that ranges from delicacy to ardent romance via delightful rusticity.

Lang Lang’s pairing of Chopin’s Four Scherzi with Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons is an interesting if uneven affair in this 2-CD release made at Paris’s Opera Garnier. The Chopin is technically dazzling, but others are better: Stephen Hough (Hyperion) shapes them more effectively, although there is still no rival to the poetry of Arthur Rubinstein’s 1959 recording (RCA), which continues to sound remarkably fresh. A greater degree of nuance and individuality is evident in Lang Lang’s performance of the twelve Tchaikovsky vignettes, one for each month of the year, each mixing memorable melody with character that ranges from delicacy to ardent romance via delightful rusticity. They might be concert rarities, but impressive rivals on disc that are truly steeped in Russian tradition include Mikhail Pletnev (Virgin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca), Pavel Kolesnikov (Hyperion) – enthusiastically greeted by Andrew Achenbach on 23 January 2015 – or, a personal favourite, Viktoria Postnikova (Warner). Recorded sound is fulsome and excellent. The lavishly illustrated deluxe edition contains effusive booklet notes by James Jolly, the poems used by Tchaikovsky as the basis for his pianistic morceaux, and a DVD featuring extracts of these works recorded at Versailles Palace (previously available from Sony).
–Evan Dickerson