A man who has been asked to perform for Obama, Putin, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and numerous other foreign dignitaries, a musician whom performed not only at award shows like the Grammy’s and Nobel Peace Prize concerts but was personally featured as a symbol of his country’s future in an Olympic Games opening ceremony, this same internationally styled genius, bows before his audience. He bows, not primarily as his show of manners, but, truly, Lang Lang wishes to thank his audience for attending his recital. As he takes the stage, he is humble, small, almost like the young boy who, at fourteen, performed with President Jiang Zemin in his audience. Lang Lang feels painfully human, until his fingers, like birds, take flight on his instrument.
The final night of a vicious flurry, Opening Nights presented the internationally recognized master at the end of a fifteen day slew of incredible performances, including comedians Tom Segura and Lily Tomlin, to musicians from the student PRISM celebration to Chris Botti, Richard Thompson, and the Blind Boys of Atlanta.
Lang Lang’s set was modest, beautiful, transitionary throughout, and delicate. His selections (French Impressionist Debussy and Hungarian Liszt in his first act, a Spanish trio of Albeniz, Granados, and De Falla in his second), provided an evening without musical borders, such that Lang Lang’s performative nature washed over the concert hall in waves of melodic delights and simply beautiful piano.
Witnessing a Lang Lang performance is to see a young genius that cannot contain his music to just his fingertips, a pianist that styles his gestures and movements to match his arrangement. He is playful, teasing out each note and breathing nearly theatrical soul into his work, without hardly moving his body. The moods throughout the night could be seen in his hands, a rare treat in a recital, as they reverberated across the hall and into the heart.
There were no words shared before, between, or after pieces. This man, who has performed with Hans Zimmer, Metallica, and Pharell, felt no need to interrupt his audiences’ interest in the piano recital. Lang Lang, who holds the title of ambassador to China for the Recording Academy, UNICEF, a UN Messenger of Peace, even the first ambassador of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, does not feel his words matter.
Then the recital ends. The audience, bursting at the seams for this young man to engage them, screams and cheers in deafening form. Children rush the stage with presents, autograph books, and hope to see this man who may well be their hero. Lang Lang returns to the stage, taking photos, signing autographs, and shaking the hands of every person in reach, bowing to each. He realizes he has no choice, and begins an encore. Even this does not quell the flaming audience, and he recognizes he must play a second.
The night was a culmination of the beauty and art that Opening Nights represents. Lang Lang’s radiance, his mastery of piano and performance, show-cases how great of a person each of us can strive to be. Humility, along with excellent living legend artists, embodies Opening Nights to a T. The season still has more to come, and it will be a challenge for them to surpass the fifteen-day burst they just completed. If there is one thing Tallahassee can be certain, it is that Opening Nights will rise to that challenge.
More information on Opening Nights can be found on their Facebook page.
Photo credits: Bruce Palmer