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Despite his laudable ambassadorial role for the piano and his huge popularity, Lang Lang has often failed where it matters most – in the interpretations themselves. He has an enviable technique, of course, making his every performing wish possible, but how you respond to him is dependent on whether or not you like his approach. Recorded with presence and clarity, these Etudes reveal Lang Lang’s trademark showiness and tendency for over-projection; the F major (No 3) is strident, while the A minor (No 4) sounds angular, phrases sometimes seeming disconnected. There is at least a nod towards delicacy in the so-called ‘Butterfly’ Study (No 9), but with little humour, and the pay-off sounds contrived. His heavy attack can be productive in the last three pieces, albeit with a lack of soul at times; dazzling, but not deep.

What follows is more involving. The Nocturnes are quite poetic and inward, if lacking the quietest of dynamics. The F major is affectingly tender and the posthumous example is particularly haunting. The Grande valse brillante is poised and dynamically shaded, if a little limited in variegation and rhythmically rather tight, and the so-called ‘Minute’ Waltz is perfectly poised and nicely turned. The Andante spianato is persuasively undulating but marred by some hard-edged accents, and the attendant Polonaise veers between sweetness and virtuoso bombast. A DVD features a 50-minute documentary, My Life with Chopin, and the CD recital in 5.0 surround sound.

COLIN ANDERSON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing