That headline doesn’t work, does it? Because you have to know that I’m talking about Chinese pianist Lang Lang (the man so nice they named him twice) and that it’s pronounced LAHNG-LAHNG, and that, oh, never mind.
Let’s start over.
I went to see the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra last weekend. Through the miracle of social media, the CSO hooked me up with a pair of free tickets.
And not only did we get to see the orchestra’s performance, we also got to meet beforehand with assistant conductor Will White, from whom I learned that a)the orchestra only rehearses a piece like four times b)the no-clapping-between-movements rule is newish and kind of stupid and c)Music Hall is probably not haunted.
And then it was time for the show.
I’ve seen the CSO perform maybe two or three times in the gigantic cavern known as Music Hall. (They’re trying to shrink it, and even if it costs $100 million to do so, I think it’s worth it.) I love classical music, in part because it gives my mind a chance to wander. They played Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” and I wondered, “One hundred years from now, will bands be playing Lady Gaga to crowds of well-dressed elderly folks?” and “Why didn’t I stick with the clarinet?” and “Who thought it was a good idea to bring kids to this thing?” and “Where is everyone I’ve ever met?”
And then Lang Lang walked on stage. Not the panda but the virtuoso piano player who bangs at the keys the way we clap our hands — with assurance that we know with certainty where each hand will land. Lang Lang took on Liszt’s brutal Piano Concerto No. 1 like it was “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I wondered if maybe he should have pretended to struggle a bit, because I can’t appreciate things that seem easy. Like, imagine if a weightlifter didn’t look like his neck was about to explode when he hoisted 500 pounds over his head — would we still grit our teeth and say, “Wow”?
All of this is to say: He was brilliant.
But Lang Lang taught me that you should never leave a performance too early. We scooted out to the bathroom as he was bowing to his standing ovation, and while outside we once again heard the tinkle of piano keys. We were sad, so we got another drink and guzzled it in time to get back in our seats for the orchestra’s performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, which was way better than “Poker Face.”
We decided to get a post-symphony cocktail at the Cincinnatian, where we learned that Billy Joel once was kicked off the piano because the hotel has strict rules about bar music hours. And as we threw back bar snacks and thought about poor Billy Joel, we saw none other than Lang Lang walk in the front door. He went straight to his room. And that is the end of this story.
Except for this. I went to the CSO web site — and you should do the same, because they’ve got some great guests lined up — and I can’t figure out this picture of Renee Fleming. Please help me.