Lang Lang, Herbie Hancock in bold Montreux premiere

Mon Jul 6, 2009 6:56am EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) - Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang made his first appearance at the Montreux jazz festival on Sunday, teaming up with veteran Herbie Hancock in an audacious show blending classical and jazz music.

The two men dressed in black sat facing each other at twin grand pianos to perform a program ranging from Maurice Ravel to George Gershwin.

"I am very happy to debut here at this great jazz festival. Don't worry, there will be some jazzy stuff later on," Lang Lang, 27, reassured the Swiss audience at the sell-out event.

"We're having a quiet party now," he said after the unlikely pair launched into Ralph Vaughan Williams's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, accompanied by the Orchestre National de Lyon, conducted by John Axelrod.

Lang Lang, perhaps the best known young pianist on the international stage, then played two stirring solos, Liebestraum by Franz Liszt and Tango.

He took up piano aged 2 and gave his first public recital at the age of 5, going on to perform at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics last August. He lives in the United States.

Lang Lang and Hancock are booked at London's Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, July 11 on a world tour culminating at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles next month.

One could hear a pin drop in the celebrated Stravinski Auditorium, where only a day before Steely Dan and Dave Matthews led a hard-jamming Fourth of July party. The Black Eyed Peas follows on Monday night at the venue along Lake Geneva.   Continued...

<p>Chinese pianist Lang Lang acknowledges the crowd before his show with pianist Herbie Hancock during the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux July 5, 2009. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud</p>