LSO – Tan Dun – Lang Lang

22 April 2009, Barbican, London

4510_largeAs I mentioned before, I’m always intrigued to see Asian talent on the international stage. It’s really great that Tan Dun and Lang Lang have made it globally (and how young Lang Lang is!) I was speaking to a friend and also a colleague before the concert.. why is that there are so few Asians who have made it big in the performance world? And the ones that have are often those who have been educated in the West. Quite odd, don’t you think.. with a 5th of the world being Chinese, and even more Asian? Or maybe not quite so odd.. as one of the biggest reasons I think is that, at least in China, while artists are trained to excel technically, they may not have the stage presence and performance skills that bring them to the next level. These are two things that Tan Dun and Lang Lang are definitely known for. Also the lack of resources and the supportive network.

This is perhaps my 5th contemporary classical music concert.. mm still really not my thing! I find it quite difficult to maintain interested and focused while listening to something so random. When I was listening to Tan Dun’s Piano Concerto ‘The Fire’, my mind quite drifting off to scenes of running on roofs and up walls.. maybe it’s the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon connection heh. But I did like watching Tan Dun conduct… very expressive. Lang Lang too (though even more over-the-top now) but I couldn’t help but compare it to the last time I saw him at Carnegie Hall when he played Yellow River and Paganini’s Caprice No.24, which are.. ahh…two of my favourite pieces ever :-). Nevertheless, despite my personal taste, I think it is great that they are merging the East with the West, and introducing contemporary classical music to audiences that may typically only like or are familiar with traditional classical music.

youtube_carnegiehall_081202_mnAnyway, the thing that first caught my attention about the show tonight was all the talk about the YouTube Symphony orchestra piece, Internet Symphony ‘Eroica’. Basically Tan Dun composed a piece, recorded it with the LSO and then put it on YouTube, along with song sheets for various parts. People were then invited to learn the piece and upload themselves playing their instruments onto YouTube. The judges then picked the orchestra via these videos. Last week, this orchestra comprising players from all over the world (including two UK players) played to a sold-out Carnegie Hall. Pretty cool, huh! Shows how technology can help spread and advance the reach of the arts.. (and what a great marcomms story ;))

The odd thing about the evening, actually, was the programme line-up. How did Mahler’s Symphony No.1 end up being the 2nd half of the concert? It was really enjoyable, but really did not sit with the rest of the programme too well. Mm I need to learn a bit more about programming, as I’m sure there is a good reason. [edit: programming a mainstream popular work alongside a new work is a means of introducing the less popular/unfamiliar to the audience] But, anyway, I probably enjoyed that piece the most 🙂 I have never seen LSO before, so it was good to see them play, especially as they are known as one of the top 2 orchestras in the nation (along with Philharmonia Orchestra).

    Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
    Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
    Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
    Din, dan, don. Din, dan, don.

And fyi, a full size orchestra (about 100 players) may sometimes be called a “symphony orchestra” or “philharmonic orchestra”; these prefixes do not necessarily indicate any strict difference in either the instrumental constitution or role of the orchestra, but can be useful to distinguish different ensembles based in the same city. The other type of orchestra is a chamber orchestra – usually 50 or less players.

Am looking forward to the next Lang Lang concert, which will be a bit funkier and more accessible… a collaboration with Herbie Hancock!


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