Monday, November 17, 2008

I I Think Think It It Was Was Good Good

As another stop on my ongoing quest to appreciate others’ brilliance, on Saturday afternoon I saw acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang at Orchestra Hall. Since it was special “family” performance—a bit more talking than normal, only 1:15 in length—of what was already a non-traditional program mostly highlighting Chinese music, I won’t give it a formal review but I enjoyed it very much. And while not well-qualified to judge the relative merits of a concert pianist, from what I can tell Lang Lang—who has garnered both glowing and scathing critiques, according to his Wikipedia article—was outstanding.

But then, so was Kate Liu, a 14-year old Chicago-area piano student who won an audition to accompany Lang Lang on a piece by Schubert (the only Western composer featured). And so too, at least in her own realm, was Soyoung Kee, another area pianist who gave a recital at the Skokie Public Library yesterday. Her past credits, while impressive (doctorate in piano, seemingly noted as a local teacher, some performances worthy of mention but not with any major symphonies) pale in comparison to someone like Lang Lang, and to my untrained ear, his playing was significantly superior, but perhaps that was as much due to the choice of pieces than the performances itself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that unlike rock and roll and even Broadway, where my familiarity with various artists/composers is pretty vast, when it comes to other art forms that I’m still dabbling in exploring—classical, opera, jazz, even some forms of dance—all I know is what I like, and typically my exposure is primarily to performers who have already been highly acclaimed. You wouldn’t be on the stage at Orchestra Hall unless you were great, at least to some level, but if and when critics degrade Lang Lang, I’m almost certain to have no comprehension as to what they’re critiquing. Plus unlike popular music, where I can somewhat appreciate nuance and texture, generally in the less familiar modes, the faster and louder it is, the more I like it. And that sort of judgment probably isn't fair to the performers or the art forms.

What should I be listening for to better appreciate just how good (or even not so good) someone is?

No comments: