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Classical album review: Lang Lang/Simon Rattle, Prokofiev 3 Bartok 2 (Sony)


Sir Simon Rattle has done nothing to scotch rumours that he is to take the top job with the London Symphony Orchestra when Valery Gergiev steps down in 2017, possibly leaving the Berlin Philharmonic earlier than planned: he went to Berlin in 1999 and was due to stay until 2018. (Years go by like bar-lines in the heady world of haute conducting.)

So his every upbeat now takes on a new significance, for, by common consent, his return to Britain – where he cut his teeth on the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Liverpool Philharmonic, and transformed the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – will be good not only for the LSO but for music generally.

Rattle is one of those rare arts figures who exists on the news pages as well as in arts sections, and here he is with the Berlin Phil, whipping up the kind of high-octane performance that characterises his style, with the equally ear-catching Lang Lang giving a splashy reading of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3 (in the soloist’s repertoire since his mid teens). 

Superloud and racily paced, it is coupled with Bartok’s initially more circumspect Piano Concerto No 2. The concertos are aimed firmly at a younger, wider audience, and with this honourable mission in mind, both CD and DVD are available, with up-close footage of the Prokofiev in rehearsal.

It all gives a whole new meaning to the words “Flash, bang, wallop”, but it’s difficult to resist the energy, brio and sheer unabashed showmanship of the whole package.