Lang Lang

It’s been a rapid ascent for this virtuoso pianist

Just ask any politician: a damaging reputation is easy to acquire and nearly impossible to shake. Lang Lang will forever remain in the minds of many that exuberant teenager who crashed onto the classical-music scene on a tsunami of promotion, who plays faster, louder, flashier, and swoonier than anyone else, who eats Steinways for breakfast and the complete works of Rachmaninoff as a midmorning snack. (His compatriot Yundi Li has been called “the thinking man’s Lang Lang,” which tells you something.) Recently critics have been noticing subtler qualities in Lang’s playing—is he mellowing or just broadening his palette? Certainly his recital program tonight takes pains to prove he’s no one-trick pony: there’s a little Mozart, the sonata K. 333, to show his Apollonian side, and Schumann’s furrowed-brow Fantasy in C to stake his claim to the meat-and-potatoes Teutonic tradition. The crowd-pleasers include a set of picture-postcard Chinese folksong transcriptions, and to finish, as usual, a Liszt knucklebreaker, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6. He’ll also include a second showpiece, but a more poetic one: Liszt’s own arrangement of Wagner’s “Love-Death,” the closing soprano scene from his opera Tristan und Isolde. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., 215-4747, $17-$150. 7:30 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT

Wed., March 26, 7:30 p.m., 2008

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