New Classical Tracks®

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New Classical Tracks: Lang Lang rediscovers pieces from his youth in 'Piano Book'

Lang Lang Joseph Oerke/Courtesy of the artist
4min 59sec : New Classical Tracks: Lang Lang
24min 50sec : New Classical Tracks: Lang Lang (extended)

Lang Lang — Piano Book (Deutsche Grammophon)

If you took piano lessons growing up, or even if you didn't, you'll surely recognize the pieces Chinese pianist Lang Lang features on the Piano Book. It is an actual book, and a new recording filled with the pieces that helped him fall in love with playing the piano.

"So, at the age of 36, I thought, 'I think it's time to revisit those pieces and to really inspire the new music generations to have the confidence to play those pieces in a more artistic way.'"

You call these true masterpieces — why is that?

"Those pieces are really in a way quite underrated because people hear them from ring tones. People hear them from somewhere. They probably thought, 'Oh, those pieces are just for beginners. You know everybody can play it, it's not a big deal.' So, therefore for this recording, let's present those pieces in a more interesting way — to have more confidence to play those pieces as artistic pieces."

Lang Lang: 'Piano Book' Deutsche Grammophon

As you were selecting the works for this recording and this book, did you have any 'ah ha' moments where you discovered something new in a work that maybe you've been missing your whole life?

"Most of the pieces, when I play, are extremely different from when I was a kid.

"Even Fur Elise is not a difficult piece, but this piece has many magical moments. I think the things we have learned from the concertos, the late sonatas, and the variations — you come back and see this piece as a completely different, almost like a three movement, sketch."

I know you see a lot of visual images when you play the Mozart Variations, which many of us would know as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Talk to me a little bit about some of the variations that are your favorites and those that might be a little emotional.

"After the third variation, you realize this piece is very difficult to play because when you play Mozart in a very heavy way, like a big elephant doing Mozart, it's not nice.

"And then, you know, a very spiritual passage comes, like all those great opera overtures.

"And then the adagio — it's just one of the most beautiful adagios out there. When Mozart comes to the minor, it's incredible. It's like you can see the skies changing color."

The second CD — this is a 2-CD set — there's something else that I really found surprising, and that would be what I always call Chopsticks. Tell me about the celebrated Chop Waltz by de Lulli.

"I found this piece can be played very interestingly: we can sometimes have the accent on the first beat, sometimes accent on the second beat, sometimes take time on the third beat, kind of like combining Waltz and Mazurkas, you know, and Polkas. I really wanted to record this piece, and to also show those kids that this piece can be played with many different ways of interpretation."

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Resources

Lang Lang: Piano Book (Amazon)
Lang Lang: Piano Book: Hardcover Book (Faber Edition) (Amazon)