August brings a new batch of (six) titles in the Virtuoso series. Building the range of recordings with big symphonies, key concertos, influential choral works and appealing chamber music. All of the titles in the series offer excellent recordings, famous artists, strong visuals, innovative booklet notes and best-selling composers. They tick every box to make serious classical music as easy and approachable as can be, with integrity and without compromise.
Lang Lang revisits giants of Russia's Romantic musical soul, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, to reveal another side of his prodigious talent–his finesse as a collegial interpreter of chamber music. This release, Lang Lang`s first ever chamber music recording, also features two giants of their instruments: Vadim Repin on violin and Mischa Maisky on cello. Lang Lang could not be in better company to reveal the inexhaustible inventiveness of Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50 or the tender consolations of Rachmaninov's Trio élégiaque no. 1 in G-minor, a short early masterpiece composed before Rachmaninov was twenty.
Martin Lang returns for his second album for what Lang and his producer and liner notes writer Dick Shurman both call this an “ensemble album.” There is a team behind the effort, with Oscar Wilson fronting the band with his sublime vocal style on five tracks, Rusty Zinn singing on two tracks and Martin singing on the first and last tracks. Five of the cuts are instrumentals and showcase Lang on harp and Billy Flynn and Zinn as guitarists. Illinois Slim and Jimmy Upstairs share the bass duties and Dean Haas is on drums throughout. Dave Waldman also tinkles the keys on a couple of tracks.
For this all-Mozart twofer from Sony, piano virtuoso Lang Lang, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and the Vienna Philharmonic present a program of piano concertos, piano sonatas, and several short solo pieces that give a good sampling of the composer's keyboard output. The roster may provoke some cognitive dissonance, though, because Harnoncourt is best known for historically informed period interpretations of Mozart, while Lang Lang and the Vienna Philharmonic are more associated with a conventional, mainstream performance style. One might expect some compromise between the two camps, yet while the orchestra incorporates some aspects of Classical sound into its playing, it remains a modern orchestra of full size, and Harnoncourt doesn't ask for the tone colors and techniques he would demand of his own Concentus Musicus Wien. For the soloist's part, Lang Lang is rather restrained and sensitive to the character of the music, and apart from some showiness in his cadenzas, he shows less of the ebullience and bravura playing he otherwise shows in Liszt or Rachmaninov.