The Community Arts Music Association will open its 2012-13 season with a solo recital by the phenomenal virtuoso pianist Lang Lang at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Granada Theatre, 1214 State St. in Santa Barbara.
Lang Lang’s program, notwithstanding his well-deserved reputation for pyrotechnical display, sticks to the lyric and nuanced potentials of his instrument and — not counting whatever encores he chooses to bless us with — will consist of three sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (No. 5 in G-Major, K. 283, No. 4 in Eb-Major, K. 282, No. 8 in A-Minor, K. 310), and all four Ballades by Frédéric Chopin (No. 1 in G-Minor, Opus 23, No. 2 in F-Major, Opus 38, No. 3 in Ab-Major, Opus 47 and No. 4 in F-Minor, Opus 52).
By all accounts, Mozart could perform with uncanny brilliance on any instrument with a keyboard or strings, although he had, throughout his tragically short life, a special affinity for the piano. His concertos, of course, took up the baroque form, which even Joseph Haydn had been unwilling to expand, and developed it to the point where, at his death, it required nothing to become the perfect vehicle for the romantic virtuoso.
His solo piano music, including the 18 sonatas, is not quite so Promethean. If he had chosen to concentrate his gifts on a career of solo recitals, he would no doubt have produced works that breathed fire with the best of them, but, what with his operas, symphonies, chamber works and concerti — with a mass or two to keep the Man Upstairs sweet — he reserved only his most delicate insights and exquisite pleasures for the solo keyboard.
Chopin took a different tack, more in tune with Mozart’s nuanced introspection. For one thing, he was never particularly robust, and the epic or demonic were equally alien to his sensitive, modest soul. Nobody was more romantic, though, and he was steeped in the romantic poetry of his Polish homeland. It was to produce musical equivalents of poetic forms that he invented the ballade. A ballad is not a dance; it is a form of verse; and no composer has ever surpassed — certainly not in a solo piano score — the perfect fusion of poetic and musical feeling that Chopin achieved in his four ballades. There is nothing like them anywhere.
Single tickets to Lang Lang’s recital are $38 to $103 and are available through the Granada box office at 805.899.2222 or by clicking here.