Lang Lang was invited to play at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, and Telegraph was not happy about it. James Rhodes asked in the paper: “Why was there no British pianist at the Jubilee concert? Lang Lang playing butchered Gershwin isn’t good enough.”
Technically, Lang Lang wasn’t the only performer from a non-Common Wealth country in that concert. Renee Fleming and Stevie Wonder were the other two. (Fleming sang from the balcony of the Buckingham Palace nonetheless!) But I guess since they are from the America, which was a former British colony, we’ll let it pass.
I understand Mr. Rhodes’ frustration. Is the Jubilee Concert supposed to be a showcase of British talent? Arguably so. Are there good British pianists? Surely there are. But is there another pianist who is also a household name worldwide? Arguably not.
Rhodes suggested three other British pianists – Stephen Hough, Paul Lewis and Benjamin Grovesnor. He also suggested that the reason they were passed over was that Lang Lang has a big record company (Sony) with better connection and deep packet. I’m not too sure about that. I think the simple reason is that Lang Lang is more entertaining than anyone else: Just look at the way he dressed – faux military ceremonial suit – and the way he selectively played only the flashiest parts of two two pieces – Hungarian Rhapsody which sequed into Rhapsody in Blue.
It’s clear this is not the occasion to be subtle and understated but to make the biggest gesture on an outdoor stage where tens of thousands of people congregated to be entertained. To suggest this four-minutes performance could have been an advocacy for the classical music is hoping for too much – even for a queen.