Fall 2011 in Review: Music at Zellerbach Hall
Lang Lang, 11/2
The superstar of the concert piano world graced the stage of Zellerbach Hall on the evening of November 2nd and astounded audiences with his meticulous and impassioned interpretations of Bach’s Partita No. 1, Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat major, and Chopin’s first twelve études. Performance of Bach inevitably leads to a discussion of how a piece originally written for harpsichord should be played on piano. Lang Lang opted for the non-traditional, forsaking Baroque music’s characteristic terraced dynamics and meccanico style for the lush sounds of the Romantic era (not that I’m complaining).
Since he obviously prefers to play the music of the Romantic period, witnessing his performance of the Chopin études was a real treat. These pieces are notoriously difficult, but Lang Lang played them effortlessly and his fingers danced on the keys with ease and superior agility.
Abraham, Inc., 11/13
Every once in a while, Zellerbach books an artist or group that really stands out. And I don’t mean because they are any more exceptional than the other performers, but because a concert hall is simply an odd place to find a klezmer/funk/hip-hop fusion ensemble, led by the eccentric keyboardist and “beat architect” Socalled. I mean no disrespect to Zellerbach or its patrons, but some types of music are not meant to be taken in sitting down. It is no wonder that Abraham, Inc. managed to get the audience out of their seats by the last number and dancing in the aisles. A fire hazard, sure, but fire hazards can be so much fun! But what exactly does a klezmer/funk/hip-hop fusion ensemble sound like? First, you take a piano and an electric keyboard, a drum set and a drum machine, a couple horns, some things with strings, add Jewish culture and a sick beat, and the resulting gestalt is Abraham, Inc. They’re a jam band for the twenty-first century, with simple but catchy melodic lines, and extended improvisational sections that are sure to amaze. The clarinetist, for instance, played a solo on “Breaking Bread” that was essentially the sonic equivalent of challah—a stretchy and moist middle section, punctuated with crispy staccatos, brushed with egg, and baked until golden brown. The concert was an incredible musical experience, and it was probably the most fun you can have in a building that was epitomizes brutalist architecture (*cough* Wurster *cough*).