Lang Lang honors Sir Paul McCartney at Gershwin Award Ceremony
~posted by Rich Upton, KMFA afternoon announcer and host of Sunday Night Symphony
I just finished watching “In Performance at the White House” on PBS, wherein President Obama presented the Gershwin Award for Popular Music — the highest award for popular music — to Sir Paul McCartney, for a lifetime of achievement in that field. McCartney and his band performed, Jerry Seinfeld did a bit, and a number of pop music luminaries performed McCartney songs — from Herbie Hancock to Elvis Costello to The Jonas Brothers (the latter a little something for the Obama daughters).
One highlight of the evening was a performance by classical pianist Lang Lang, who performed a solo piano work composed by McCartney. I recognized the melody immediately — it first appeared on a recording of Paul McCartney demos of music created for an as-yet-unproduced animated film featuring the character of Rupert the Bear, then resurfaced in 1997 — in a much more expanded and gloriously beautiful performance for chorus and orchestra — as the finale for McCartney’s most ambitious classical work to date, “Standing Stone.” In that context, it was assigned the title “Celebration,” which is how it was announced for Lang Lang’s performance at the White House. Having heard only the two versions — one a home recording by McCartney alone, never intended for public release, and the other this wonderful full arrangement for orchestra and voices — I was curious to hear how this melody would translate to solo piano….
Well, duh! Combine a master of melody like Paul McCartney with a master of the piano like Lang Lang, and how could the result be anything but gorgeous? Which is exactly what it was. Here is a video that unfortunately picks up well into Lang Lang’s performance, but you can still see how deeply he feels the music. He doesn’t just play the music; he IS the music. It’s a moving performance of a lovely piece. (You can catch the entire broadcast at http://www.PBS.org.)
Rich Upton is KMFA’s weekday afternoon announcer, and host of Sunday Night Symphony. You can hear Sunday Night Symphony on Sundays at 9pm.