Lang-Lang is the antidote to recessions and deaths of classical music. There are only a few others than the Chinese piano superstar who can sell out Davies Symphony hall on a Tuesday evening for a solo recital of Beethoven, Albeniz and Prokofiev, as part of the SF Symphony Great performers series.

Lang-Lang has been around so long, with such intense exposure, that we tend to forget he's only 28, and still growing as a musician. His program showed that more growth would be welcome as well. Oh, the recital provided the fireworks that Lang-Lang is famous for: dazzling mastery of the keyboard, a feeling of ease and total cool control during even the more challenging moments, the ability to create any color and any phrasing he would want out of any mess of notes. But all this was not harnessed to any memorable interpretation. This was particularly striking in the Beethoven Sonatas: No. 3 sounded dry in its first movement, and the second dragged with little lyricism. Lang-Lang invested lots of effort in the nuances and the phrasing, but those came out as somewhat whimsical and piecewise, as if the overall architecture of the piece was not grasped. The Appassionata as well had this feel: a succession of beautifully crafted moments, or brilliant scales and arpeggios, but somehow discombobulated. Lang-Lang can do whatever he wants at the keys, but he needs better taste in his musical choices to unify his interpretation. Also: in his wardrobe, his wedding singer tux must go.