Review: Lang Lang’s “Goldberg” Variations at the Barbican

Posted on: December 17, 2021

“Lang Lang’s performance of the Bach Goldberg Variations wasn’t just a piano recital. It was a rock concert which happened to contain Bach,” writes Jessica Duchen in Monday’s (12/13) inews (U.K.). “Rarely do you see the Barbican packed to the rafters for a solo pianist. Let alone the pianist gliding along the front of the stage shaking hands, or young fans dashing up the aisles to get closer, or so many families bringing tiny, restless children for wunderkind inspiration … The charismatic Chinese superstar [opened] with an unshowy piece of Schumann, the Arabeske … like a supporting band to warm up the crowd [before] the main act: the Goldberg Variations.… Lang Lang really does play the piano like a god. He works magic galore…. Lang Lang choreographed awkward moments like a dancer and carried them off at dizzying speed, tossing in extra embellishments galore…. [In] the final ‘Quodlibet’ before the Aria returns … Lang Lang chose ‘family in American Christmas movie’ style, all gooey schmaltz and choirs of plastic angels. This was, ultimately, a stadium-sized Goldberg Variations.”