Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang opened this year’s Byblos International Festival on Thursday evening. Hailed by The New York Times as the “hottest artist on the classical music planet,” Lang amazed the Lebanese audience with his interpretations of Rachmaninov’s concerto no. 2 and Chopin’s masterpieces among other compositions.
Lang started playing piano at the tender age of three, and has never stopped since. He is the first Chinese artist to have been selected by the New York, Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. Performing in front of a crowded venue, Lang showed Lebanon that although it was his first concert in the country, it will probably not be his last.
He was accompanied by the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of maestro Darrell Ang. His stage presence and outstanding technique surprised many spectators.
Next on the festival’s agenda is Lebanese musical patriarch Marcel Khalife, returning to the Byblos stage on July 17. One of the country’s great masters of the oud, Khalife first found renown for his politicized folk numbers. Most recently, he has allowed his career and songbook to be recast through his sons Rami and Bashar.
On July 19, Yanni returns to Lebanon to perform what is assumed will be a playlist of his most famous hits. A multi-award-winning talent, the Grammy-winning Greek has been feted for his albums “Dare to Dream” and “In My Time.”
A decade or so ago, U.K. trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack stormed to the stage of the Baalbek International Festival. Their long-awaited reprise will come July 29.
Best known for early-career releases such as “Blue Lines,” “Protection” and “Mezzanine,” Massive Attack’s mutable ensemble has continued to tour and make the odd record, the most recent being 2010’s “Heligoland.”
For those into hardcore Dutch symphonic metal, Epica will be performing Aug. 2. The band is known for its combination of female vocals, orchestral scoring and thoughtful lyrics.
The dance party begins Aug. 5, when Belgian singer songwriter Stromae will shake Byblos’ booty. The artist, whose name is “maestro” spelt backward, was catapulted into pop culture’s collective hard drive with his hit “Alors On Danse.” That tune’s success earned him the ambiguous honor of performing a one-night stand at Beirut’s Sky Bar in Aug. 2010. Despite this, his career hasn’t stopped accelerating, and he’s won numerous best artist awards.
A potentially interesting generational cross will be staged on Aug. 6, when the father of ethio-jazz Mulatu Astatke will take the stage with Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, promising to alternate and combine their far-flung talents.
Another local hero, Lebanese-Armenian pianist Guy Manoukian, will return to the Byblos stage on Aug. 13 promising to perform the best-loved numbers of his four albums.
Last but not least, U.S. band Beirut will close the festivities on Aug. 19. The public discovered these indie rockers in 2007, when their song “Nantes” shot up the international music charts. Having toured the world, this will be Beirut’s Lebanon premiere.
The Byblos International Festival will take place from July 3 until Aug. 19. For ticketing, please call 01-999-666.