The Langer's friends run mad deep. At a one-off benefit concert last night, Renée
Fleming, John Legend, Joshua Bell, Danish singer Oh Land and MC Alec Baldwin bolstered the Chinese pianist's International Music Foundation through duets (like with Bell for Franck's Sonata) and solos. The Carnegie Hall concert under Montblanc's patronage was originally scheduled for October 30, 2012 until Hurricane Sandy went on a power-eating, green-gnashing binge across the Tri-State area.
Renée Fleming and Montblanc's International PR Director Ingrid Roosen-Trinks
Lang² lovers have three different versions of his new Chopin album -- which launched yesterday in Italy -- to covet. In addition to a set of etudes, a handful of nocturnes and waltzes, the deluxe edition features home videos of precocious baby Lang² and the dubstepping Marquese in Ocean 12 (photo above).
But we'll clue you in: Last week, OC was partying in Hamburg (no, not at Thessa's Facebook party!) with Montblanc for a black tie dinner to toast the city's art scene. It was held in the industrial, steel and glass exhibition space of the Deichtorhallen Hamburg where Montblanc fêted one of its twelve winners of this year's Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.
Keep reading the party report, including a private concert from Lang Lang!
Earlier this week, artists Herbie Hancock, Lang², and John Axelrod (and the enthusiastic kids of Accademia Teatro Alla Scala) rawked La Scala's Caraceni black silk socks in a reprisal of the 2009 world tour of dueling pianos, butt-shaking works, and a chemistry between three artists that spans across generations and cultures.
There are lots of traditional things that La Scala just gets right, especially when tapping into their lush Italian roots with the darkest Verdi and the lightest bel canto masterpieces. But when La Scala hosts cool programming, it's like inviting Charles Bukowski to your Ivy League school to teach a creative writing course. It's nothing short of awesome.
Scala set the stage with a full-on orchestra, cheered by a packed house of a young, diverse audience who knew, like us, that when La Scala rawks out, it can't be missed. A set list of accessible works, all the ensemble pieces were orchestrated for four hands on the piano and orchestra for more dazzle of ebony/ivory smasher Lang² and American jazzmatazz Herbie Hancock.
(Photo: Brescia e Amisano - Teatro alla Scala)
First up was George Gershwin's Cuban Overture, and no one in the house was immune to the bright, butt-shaking rumba beats, not even conductor John Axelrod who swayed to the lush and sizzling rhythms evocative of Havana. During adagio downtime, Axelrod found swords of color from the eager kids of Accademia.
Legendary American pianist and composer Herbie Hancock came out in a 1940s inspired purple suit and a contrasting red dress shirt, looking like he stepped right out of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. Lang² went for a classic look in a slick, black suit and white dress shirt.
The second and third pieces were for Lang² and Herbie Hancock -- Maurice Ravel's Ma mère l’oye gave way to Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, neither technically perfect or clean, but both spirited and bright.
After the intermission, the orchestra came back for Johannes Brahms Hungarian Dance punctuated by stunning brass in thrilling paces, the orchestra responsive to Axelrod’s touch.
Lang² and Herbie Hancock improvisations followed, both artists creating intimate interludes. Lang² mastered Liszt's Consolation #3 and one by Schumann with a deep introspection and sensitivity that is evocative of his evolution, hours of lessons from mentors (notably Barenboim) are paying-off, and the Chinese pianist is heading into greater territory. His Schumann soared with less affectation and lighter touches than we've heard in the past.
Herbie's improvisations were truly improvisational, saying that his game plan was to "play in the moment". Hancock's moment was an organic stream of consciousness found in rolling cadenze. He topped it off with an inspired epilogue that resonated with Joplin and Satie (and later, during the bis, treated us to his original composition, the very famous and often-sampled Cantaloupe Island).
The jam session was followed-up by the orchestra for George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. To be honest, the laVerdi kids won this one hands down under the direction of Francesco Maria Colombo, which we saw eons ago at Auditorium di Milano. But what Accademia lacked in finess was made up with a snappy, brassy, and crispness under Axelrod's direction (marked with endearing Lennyisms). Three final bis moved the crowed into classical riot territory.
In a speech given by Herbie Hancock that prefaced his improvisations, he addressed the audience (in English) with his hand over his heart and said: "Finally." -- marked by a pregnant pause -- "It's my first time at La Scala," and an emotional burst of claps and cheers.
And in the moment of silence that followed -- as everyone strained to hear more from the humble genius -- a young, male American voice yelled from the audience in English to Hancock, "Come back anytime". Quite simply, we couldn’t have said it better.
In Opera Chic's latest piece for Grazia.it, she quizzed gourmand conductor, John Axelrod, on his favorite Milan eateries. Since his recent appointment as Principal Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano “G.Verdi” for three years starting 2011/12 -- where he'll preside from Auditorium di Milano in the city's bohemian Navigli district -- he'll need to keep his Rollodex of Milan's most delicious restaurants handy.
What do you when you're basking in global $pon$or$hip$ from the world's most recognizable corporations/institutions (Sony, Adidas, Steinway, Aegon, Audi, Versace, Mont Blanc, ad nauseum)? You do whatever the f**k you want! You wanna put an apple on the piano and roll it around the keys? Go for it.
Lang Lang plays with his food while recording the soundtrack for Sony's racing game, Gran Turismo 5. If this leads to a sponsorship from Apple, Lang Lang's current status will be upgraded from player to baller. Fast forward to second 0:43 for Lang(x2)'s apple antics.
Lang Lang plays works by Chopin, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Beethoven for Gran Turismo's soundtrack. Here's what piano looks like under the influence of The Fast and The Furious:
Lang(2) played for Obama at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo and lived to tell the tale. The the Barack n' Roller was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because like the Rebirth of Slick, he's cool like that. The event was hosted by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and frankly, we think Lang Lang should be awarded the Nobel for surviving a few hours with those two. Wyclef Jean, Donna Summer, and Toby Keith also made appearances to play for the prez.
(Lang Squared & Wyclef Jean)
(Go get 'em, Lang Lang!)
(Lang Lang endures The Smiths)
(Above: Lang Lang, Toby Keith and Donna Summer at the press conference before the concert)
Musical ambassadors unite & ignite. The unlikely duo of jazzmatazz maestro Herbie Hancock and ivory smasher Lang² descended on New Jersey this past weekend as they winded down their symphony extravaganza tour that's already finessed parts of Europe and the USA. The cohesive factor was the insoluble John Axelrod, who whipped the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra into a frenzy through a populist program of widely accessible music (Mozart, Ravel, Bernstein, and Gershwin) -- the kind of music that speaks directly to the people as opposed to speaking down to them.
Crossover & synthesis is nothing new to classical music -- we've already witnessed the convergence of classical + numerous musical genres (metal, rock, hip hop, opera, etc.) for ages. So it's no secret that the tour's goal was to entice new audiences and to bridge the gap between jazz and symphony fans. It's not really about blurring the lines between jazz and classical, nor it's about finding an elusive, idealized halfway point that transcends the boundaries of audiences.
But, for once, you simply choose not to cater to the snob, the lady who's there to flaunt her new jewelry or new face lift (or both), the self-appointed arbiter of taste, the great expert of all things classical who for some reason has been trying unsuccessfully to break into classical music for 40 years and carries the inevitable huge chip on his shoulder because of that. For one night, one night only, it's about fun: no elitists or classical snobs allowed...Populist? Maybe. Fun? Yes! The classical-music-is-serious-business-guy should just stay home and complain about his jetlag, cold meatloaf, traffic, and property taxes. For just one night.
The event wasn't necessarily about the purity of the music, although when the two soloists cranked out the hits (with the help of Axelrod's quicksilver baton), the musical spirit was full of bright colors, inventive improvisations, and rousing tempi.
Vaughan Williams Concerto for Two Pianos in C Major came out as complex and moody, but unsentimental; Mozart's overture to Le Nozze dazzled, airborne and buoyant with Axelrod's skilled interpretation of the Austrian composer (Opera Chic so loved W. Axl Rod's Don Giovanni in Lucerne earlier this year); Ravel's Ma Mere L'Oye was modified for the two soloists, yet retained a delicate and uncomplicated sensibility; Bernstein's Mambo swung in the way that only Axelrod's proximity to Lenny could bring, and called for a rousing war cry of audience participation (Axelrod, a former student of Lenny's, who shaped a wonderful Candide at la Scala under OC's watchful eyes, is quite clearly one of the leading Bernstein conductors of our time); and (an overtly modified) Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue brought the house down with its ambitious scope and scintillating rhythm.
The main works were further segmented with solos and improvisational freestyles thrown in by Lang² and Hancock. The easily-digestible concept sat well with the audience, a sold-out crowd that drew the most diverse gathering OC has ever seen Stateside or in Europe under a concert hall roof.
The show's success was highly dependent on the chemistry between the three leads (Lang², Hancock & Axelrod), all of whom gelled like the oldest of friends. You'd think that all those years living in Switzerland as MD of Luzerner Theater and Chief Conductor of the Luzerner Sinfonie would have made Axelrod neutral between the two opposing magnets...one old enough to be the other's father, but that wasn't the case. Axelrod was the catalyst between the pantomiming performers, at times mediating the antics of the two pianists with good natured humor.
A solo encore reiterated that Lang² was still new at jazz improvisations, Hancock joining the young pianist in a joint freestyle. The two pulled in recognizable bits of Joplin, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and Beethoven between their four fussing hands.
Between the trifecta of awesomeness, we've got a tour concept that literally writes itself into an "a ______, a ______, and a ______ walk into a bar" joke, of which two performers have lol-inducing abbreviations in their surnames. I mean, seriously -- how often does that really happen? It's like Halley's Comet. OC just hopes she doesn't have to wait another 75 years for another tour.
The two came together earlier tonight at
the Mariinsky for Montblanc's "New Voices" concert and gala, along with French actress Eva Green. Montblanc's designated winners -- Baritone Alexei
Markov & mezzo Kristina Kapustinskaya -- sang at the gala concert. The White Nights Festival kicked-off on May 21 and ends on July 19.
Luna magazine's April 2009 edition put the spotlight on two young musicians, both with the prodigy legacy: Chinese pianist Lang Lang and Russian cellist Nina Kotova. Both artists will tour Italy this summer. Kotova will play the Cortona Tuscan Sun Festival and Lang² launches an Italian tour on April 26 called, "The Road to the Orient: From Bach to China".
Aside from By Martin Bernheimer's legendary Metropolitan Opera reviews, we're total Financial Times addicts for their "Lunch with the FT" column. The world of fashion, art, finance, and literature is appetizingly demystified over intimate lunches between journalist & celebrity, as we dine vicariously with the stars.
Rahul Jacob just sat down wtih 26-year-old piano prodigy Lang Lang in Paris at Chinese restaurant (c'mon...what else) Le Bistrot de Pékin for €100 worth of food & conversation. When Lang Lang isn't jetting around the world for sold-out concerts, banking his million-dollar endorsements with Adidas, Sony, Audi & Montblanc, he's spreading the love of piano via his rock-star lifestyle (private jets, penthouse apartments in NYC & Beijing, and VIP rooms at restaurants & nightclubs). OC is wearing Lang Lang's Adidas gazelles right now, except she had hers ~souped up~ with banging, black wedge platforms.
Chinese pianist, 26-year-old Lang Lang -- his priceless 10-digits sponsored by Montblanc, Unicef, and an awesome Adidas promotions -- is featured in The FT's December 6, 2008 "How To Spend It" supplement of "Perfect Weekend".
So how does one of People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive 2008" spend his weekends? Although he has an apartment in NYC, he prefers his weekends in Beijing (where he owns an apartment close to the China Central television Tower). Ideal for Lang Lang would be shopping on Beijing's Fifth Avenue, Wangfujing; sucking down a milkshake at one of Beijing's trendy new bars (bubble tea is sooo 2002); dining at China Club; taking a spa at Huaxia Liangzi; clubbing in Hou Hai; whispering secrets at the Huiyin Bi; purifying at the Temple of Heaven; and finally, eating a big Chinese meal prepared by his mom.
Awesome. Next time he comes to Milan, we'll show him how to spend it ~Milan style~.
It's with snobby disdain that most opera and classical music fans scorn those rising stars of crossover as sell-outs...arrogant and unfocused brats that crave lucrative paychecks for mic'd-up appearances, hair extensions, veneers, and implants all bronzed-up with Platinum Body Bling. But we can't hate on one unique playa, 25-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who is crossing-over on a whole new level.
Starting this month, in select Adidas stores where Lang Lang is touring (Dresden, Hamburg, Vienna, Florence, Barcelona, Essen & New York City), you can score a pair of the Adidas/Lang Lang collaboration kicks if you're lucky enough to pry them from lunatic Lang Lang fans and kick enthusiasts. The Lang Lang limited edition sneaker has been manufactured in only 100,000 pairs worldwide, and retails for 85 € ($130 USD).
The black and gold kicks have been modeled on the classic Originals Gazelle prototype (Lang Lang sports them in the photo above). It has been described by Adidas as "highly elegant" and by Lang Lang as, "classy". Design features? His name in Chinese has been imprinted on the heels in conjunction with the silhouette of a pianist in a stereotypical performance pose, and the sock liners have been printed with a gold piano pedal.
Now enjoy a few lines from the classic Run-D.M.C. song, "My Adidas" from 1986, for which Run, D.M.C., and Jam-Master Jay generated so much hype for the German sports apparel manufacturer that it lead to a lucrative product endorsement deal, paving the way Lang Lang.
My Adidas cuts the sand of a foreign land With mic in hand I cold took command My Adidas and me, close as can be We make a mean team, my Adidas and me We get around together, rhyme forever And we won't be mad when worn in bad weather
OC was a style junkie at an early age, and weekend sojourns around New York City's Village/SoHo in the '90s turned over mandatory stops at 555 Soul, Stüssy, Otto Tootsie Plohound, Patricia Fields, Phat Farm, and Na-Na. One of the standouts was John Fluevog, a quirky shoe boutique that offered unique styles...a step-up from the clunkybland Doc Martens that plagued the followers of Nirvana & Pearl Jam.
Revisiting the Fluevog site, we found the "Operetta" line, an OC blog appropriate homage. Each sole is inscribed with a treble clef and pentagramma, and are named after famous old skooly opera denizens: Farinelli, the Italian castrato of the 18th century; la Ceci's Maria Malibran, the Rossini mezzo-soprano from 19th century; and Rubini, the 18th century Italian tenor. Pretty sweet, but we'll stick with our delicate Louboutins and our monster Fendi platforms.