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By RICHARD WOOD
Sunday, July 15, 2012
A grand piano is not normally the most popular instrument at a music festival.
Guitars, drums and electronic keyboards are common sights, but it was with little surprise that an event that promotes itself as more than a music festival should do something out of the ordinary.
Yet although the majestic view of classical superstar Lang Lang arriving by boat to the Waterfront Stage at Latitude Festival at midday was very different, there were similarities to your average festival show.
The way he crashed the last chord of a piece and raised his hand mirrored the image of a rockstar who had just played a powerful chord, while the way the huge crowd looked on in awe and held on to every note was similar to the way thousands had reacted to Thom Yorke when he played his own piano on the Obelisk Arena three years ago.
This was an important moment for Latitude Festival.
Lang Lang might perform 130 gigs a year, but this was the first time a classical artist had been a headline act and the huge crowd that formed on every viewpoint around the Waterfront Stage showed it was a good decision.
There were people crammed onto both banks of the water and all across the bridge, and when he arrived by boat there was a surge of people scrambling to get a view of the Chinese star.
In the centre of the stage was a solitary black grand piano and a microphone, and as Lang Lang sat down silence descended.
The cheerful yet relaxing sounds of Chopin and Liszt fitted in perfectly as the sun shone brightly for one of the first times in the weekend.
It was exactly what you want for a Sunday lunchtime, bright sun, a seat by the water and some delightful music.
Every piece was beautifully and precisely played and at the end of each he would stand up and give the audience an endearing wave and smile as he turned to all three sides of the stage to acknowledge the audience’s cheers.
This was an artist who was so easy to like, with a calm, understated demeanour on the microphone that transformed into a passionate performer who clearly loved the music he played.
The conclusion came all too soon as Liszt was again the choice with Dedication duly dedicated to the audience, and as he concluded the crowd rose to pay tribute to him, before he returned to the boat and unforgettably drifted away.
For more coverage of Latitude Festival continue to follow the EDP website.