Lang Lang Dragon Songs piano concert and documentary. This title has 3 segments:
1. A documentary and compilation of interviews made in 2005 and 2006 when Lang Lang (then age 23) returned, after making his way for years in the West as a child and young adult, to visit old haunts in China.
2. The "Dragon Songs." This is a recital of about 40 minutes with 6 solo pieces by Lang Lang and 3 pieces in which Lang Lang serves as accompanist backing musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments.
3. A performance by Lang Lang of the Yellow River Piano Concerto made in 2005 at a special patriotic performance.
The documentary and song recital were recorded in HDCAM 1080i and 5.1 digital sound. The Yellow River Piano Concerto was probably recorded for distribution on VHS tape. Released in 2013, the disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C-
It's now 2013 and the events depicted on this disc took place about 8 years ago---ancient history. This title was released as a DVD in 2007 and apparently made at best only a modest impact in the marketplace. Now 6 years later, DG is trying again with a Blu-ray version. I probably should have excluded this from our website as legacy material and moved on to something fresh. But because Lang Lang is now so famous, I thought I should review this briefly to alert our readers to approach this with caution.
The documentary (also called Lang Lang Dragon Songs) is par for the course as to PQ, video quality, and content. But who cares now about Lang Lang's trip so long ago? If you care, you probably already have the DVD. The Blu-ray version doubtless looks better than the DVD. But the DVD is probably good enough for the material---why would you spend money upgrading unless you have an inexhaustible trust fund to pay for things?
Let's jump now to the Yellow River Concerto. This performance was at a Chinese Communist Party cultural propaganda extravaganza. It has the absolute worst PQ and SQ of any fine-arts video I've seen. I think it was made for internal consumption by a Chinese population still using VHS tapes as state of the art. It also appears the tape used as the master for this disc was several generations removed from the original. But the content is even worse than the recording. This is the concert in a sports stadium where Lang Lang, dressed in an all-white tux with tails (and red bow tie) was backed up by 4 symphony orchestras, thousands of chorus singers, and 100 Chinese maidens in long white gowns playing 100 grand pianos---truly a galactic-scale kosmos of kitsch. I know I shouldn't do this; but I can't resist posting some screenshots of the Yellow River Concerto, just to show how far we have come in recent years.
Here's a shot of Lang Lang beginning his performance of the Yellow River:
Lang Lang is located between the conductor and the Red Star logo on the floor. Behind the massed orchestras are perhaps 2000 chorus members. It takes several different angles to do it, but I was able to count all 100 girls in white at their grands:
The screenshots here look better than the video itself which is afflicted by massive motion optical artifacts and unbelievably great sound distortion. Here's a mid-range shot showing 22 double basses:
One more shot of this astonishing event:
So now we are down to the 40-minute segment with the 9 Dragon Songs, which are all quite charming. I will not bore you with shots of Lang Lang playing solo. But here are some screenshots of Lang Lang playing as accompanist for soloists on traditional Chinese instruments. These instruments could easily be overwhelmed by a grand piano. But Lang Lang's support is about as restrained, meticulous, gracious, and loving as any accompanist could possibly hope to be. First meet Fan Wei on the pipa or lute:
Then Zhang Jiali renders a raucous song on the guanzi or double-reed pipe:
Finally, Ji Wei plays an ethereal song on a guzheng or zither:
So what grade should we give to this jumbled affair with 40 minutes of music in HD and a mostly irrelevant documentary? Well, this is why we have the "D" grade that means, "Don't buy this unless you have a really good reason." Still, the Chinese songs are so pretty and different! So I'll give this a "C-." I hope that Lang Lang will one day slow down and put together a 2-hour HDVD of Chinese and East/West fusion music that will earn an "A+".