"I will try to play my best in my hometown," Lang said just before playing a Florida concert. "The concert starts with a Haydn sonata, Schumann's 'Abegg' Variations, a Chopin Nocturne and Tchaikovsky's 'Dumka.' The Brahms Six Pieces, Op. 118 are the most deep music in the human soul, with feelings so complex that I understand them better every day. Then the Schubert 'Wanderer' Fantasy, a tremendously exciting piece with a combination of lyricism and fireworks, chosen because I travel a lot! Finally, that crazy 'Islamey' by Balakirev, which has to come last."
"Islamey" is one of the most notoriously challenging knucklebusters in the repertoire.
Lang says that 85 percent of his recent appearances have been concertos. He is now beginning a recital tour. At Kennedy Center, he'll give the world premiere of Chinese composer Tan ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") Dun's "Watercolors," then begin Asian and European tours before launching summer appearances with the orchestras of Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boston and Cleveland. Not bad for a young man who'll turn 21 in June and who even has an impressive Web site (www.langlang.com).
In his rare spare time, he still follows the Sixers but also roots for Yao Ming, the 7-6 Chinese player with the Houston Rockets. Lang has switched from Telarc, which issued his first two CDs, to Deutsche Grammophon, which will issue his recording of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn No. 1 concertos with the Chicago Symphony under Daniel Barenboim in June.
"In my student days, we all read the Daily News. So I truly hope that a lot of young people will read this, come to the concert and discover that classical music is not as serious as they think. It's romantic, comfortable, exciting and very meaningful, with a beautiful soul and melodies that can make you feel differently about life. I would like to show that these pieces are the mainstream, and change what people think about this music."
Orchestra's new players
During Wolfgang Sawallisch's decade as music director, he has selected 40 new musicians, including 11 principal players. It's a legacy that will extend far into the future.
His final appointments have just been announced after many rounds of behind-the-screen auditions and callbacks:
* Ricardo Morales, principal clarinet. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Morales comes from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, where he was appointed principal in 1993 (at the age of 21). A teacher and chamber musician, Morales takes over for the departing Sam Caviezel in June.
* Efe Baltacigil, assistant principal cello. Hailing from Istanbul, Turkey, Baltacigil studied with Peter Wiley at Curtis and participated in the Marlboro Music Festival, as well as being a prize winner in many concerto competitions. He replaces Peter Stumpf, who joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in September.
* Carrie Dennis, assistant principal viola. A 1999 graduate of the Curtis Institute, where she studied with Joseph de Pasquale and Michael Tree, Dennis also performed with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and participated in many prestigious music festivals.
* Zachary DePue, violin (joined this season). DePue jumped right into the orchestra from Curtis, where he was concertmaster of the Curtis Orchestra and studied with Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo. DePue joins his brother Jason, another Curtis violin grad who joined the orchestra two seasons ago. *