MOZART: Piano Sonata
Klaviersonate KV 330
CHOPIN: Piano Sonata h-moll
Klaviersonate in B minor
SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen
LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Ungarische Rhapsodie
Int. Release 13 Jan. 2006
2 CDs / Download
0289 477 5976 8
Lang Lang takes listeners on intimate musical journey with his brilliant new recital album

Track List

CD 1: Memory

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonata No.10 In C Major, K.330

Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Piano Sonata No.3 In B Minor, Op.58


Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Kinderszenen, Op.15

Lang Lang

Total Playing Time 1:19:49

CD 2: Memory

Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
Lang Lang

Total Playing Time 9:07

If it is possible to play the piano charismatically, then that is what Lang Lang does. His total identification with each piece gives his playing a warmth, a personal touch, that is unique. His performance of Mozart's K. 330 is ideally classical. The opening movement seems played with the fingers just touching the keys. The big Chopin sonata is given an imposing, dignified reading, and Lang Lang plays the frisky scherzo -- the most perky one Chopin ever wrote -- with obvious glee. The performance of Schumann's "Kinderszenen" is filled with characterization: dreamy, filled with
wonderment ("Curious Story"), wackiness ("Catch me if you can"), and stillness ("Child falling asleep"); Lang Lang manages to avoid affectation throughout . . . This is a must-have; Lang Lang is not being over-hyped.

We might think that Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang is too young at 23 for a retrospective, but this excellent double-disc pairing proves otherwise: These are pieces
the young prodigy encountered in childhood, at the very beginning of a career that started when he was 2. (One, the Liszt "Hungarian Rhapsody" No. 2, was in the soundtrack of a "Tom and Jerry" cartoon. Another, Schumann's "Kinderszenen," or "Scenes of Childhood," put him to sleep as a kid.) Lang Lang first performed the passionate Chopin B minor Sonata in his early teens; Mozart's Piano Sonata in C major (K.330), another early choice, gets a sunny, crystalline performance here. A lot of the repertoire on this disc was also favorite territory of the late, great Vladimir Horowitz, whose version of the "Hungarian Rhapsody" is the one Lang Lang undertakes so spectacularly on this CD.

. . . a performance which is generally unaffected, well scaled and imaginatively characterized . . . Lang Lang¿s playing has a quietly reflective quality that works well . . . The piano sound throughout is good . . .

One constant factor in this recital is the beautiful piano sound Lang Lang produces, superbly captured by DG's engineers. It is a joy to hear.

Mozart¿s C major Sonata comes off best . . . played with an attractive singing tone.

. . . it's all just packaging . . . The performance is just what you'd expect from a brilliant technician . . . exceptionally lucid, finely controlled . . . Lang is, as I've said before, an enormously gifted musician . . .

Chopin's monumental Third Sonata brims with tremendous technique . . . As Lang Lang's languorous treatment of Schumann's "Kinderszenen" suggests . . . there's no joy that beats relaxing at the piano late at night, wallowing in "Traumerei."

Wie rasch er manche Tempi nimmt, wie flink seine Hände in der von Horwitz erschwerten Bearbeitung der zweiten Ungarischen Rhapsodie über die Tasten jagen, ist . . . ein eindrucksvolles Schauspiel.

"Brillanter Mann" heißt sein Name übersetzt . . . Passt. Lang ist's her, dass man in der Phlharmonie ein so enthusiastisches Publikum erlebt hat. Standing Ovations im rappelvollen, abgedunkelten Saal nach dem letzten offiziellen Stück . . . Das Beste an Lang Lang: Der Echo-Klassik-Preisträger mag noch so gehypt werden als Klavier-Gott seiner Generation . . . -- der 23-Jährige bleibt bei aller höchst energetischen Körpersprache stets erster Diener der Musik. Der macht Lust zum Zuhören und Zuschauen; spielt Mozarts C-Dur-Sonate KV 330 mit umwerfender spontaner Kreativität, mit Lust und Liebe zum Detail und Blick fürs Große. Was sich liebt, das neckt sich -- so kann man die Beziehung zwischen brillantem Mann und Instrument beschreiben, wenn Lang in den Flügel hineinlauscht, sich erfreut an seinen flirrenden Farbwechseln und seiner federnd-präzisen Rhythmik. Chopins dritte Sonate: große Romantik, ohne . . . überbordende Tempo-Verzögerungen, sondern mit viel Zug und echtem Gefühl. Vom Pedal bis zum Pianissimo, vom Fuß bis zur Fingerspitze: Der Mann ist so sicher, dass man nie das Gefühl hat, er könne an technische Grenzen stoßen . . . Freuen wir uns, dass es diesen Pianisten gibt.

Seitdem Lang Lang bei der Deutschen Grammophon daheim ist, bahnt sich sein Talent unaufhaltsam den Weg zum Ruhm.

Die Sonate klingt leicht, fast schwerlos . . . Lang Lang trifft den richtigen Ton der in schlichtem C-Dur gehaltenen Sonate, steht nie in der Gefahr der Überinterpretation. Bei Chopins B-Dur-Sonate op. 58, Stück Nummer zwei auf der CD, ist mehr Eigenwilligkeit des Interpreten gefragt. Lang Lang nutzt den Freiraum. Da werden Phrasen deutlich im Tempo voneinander abgesetzt, da steht massiver Donner neben virtuosem Filigran-Gewebe (ein Fest für den Chinesen mit der exzellenten Technik) . . . Auf der Bonus-CD fetzt er . . . Liszts Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 2 mitreßend in die Tasten.

Lang ist eben nicht der introvertierte Jungstar, der nur in der "Welt der Erwachsenen" musiziert. Stattdessen gibt er Konzerte in Uni-Sälen, besucht an seinen freien Tagen Schulen und spielt dort vierhändig mit Anfängern, die gerade beginnen Noten zu lesen, hat auf seiner Internetseite ein Guestbook und ein Fan-Forum -- und eben jetzt eine neue CD: "Memory". Sie enthält Stücke von Mozart, Chopin und Schumann, die er erstmals als Kind einstudiert hatte. Klassikfreund oder nicht: einfach mal reinhören. Die CD ist bei den Top-Sellern zu finden.

Virtuose Wunderstimmungsbilder

So virtuous er bei Liszt sein kann, so geradlinig und unsentimental geht er Mozart an. Auch . . . im Largo der Chopin-Sonate läßt er dem Romantiker in sich Raum, nicht schwelgerisch, sondern so, als hätte er einen direkten Draht zu jener Generation von Pianisten, die ihre prägende Ausbildung noch vor dem Aufbruch des spätromantischen Zeitalters erfahren hatten.

dieser Pianist ist . . . faszinierend.

Am besten gelingt . . . die 2. Ungarische Rhapsodie von Franz Liszt.

Musical Memories from Lang Lang's Youth

He's no longer a prodigy; he's an international pianist with awesome technique and a huge personality. But Chinese-born Lang Lang, now 23, has never lost his childish sense of wonder and excitement. That's what makes him such an entertaining and persuasive performer. So it's appropriate that for his new CD, Lang Lang has chosen works that bring back memories of his own childhood. "Some I learned many years ago, and some I remember hearing for the first time as a child. That's the theme that links them all."

Mozart's Piano Sonata K. 330 especially played a crucial role in the young Lang Lang's decision to be a concert pianist. In fact if it hadn't been for this great work, the nine-year-old might have abandoned his dream, as he explains. "My father and I moved to Beijing for me to study, leaving my mother at home. It was not the happiest of times. Although I worked very hard at the piano, my lessons were going very badly. After six months, just before I was to audition for the Central Conservatory, the top school in China, my teacher kicked me out. She said, 'You cannot play the piano. It's the wrong thing for you.' This was devastating for a nine-year-old. I stopped playing the piano and became deeply depressed.

The class music teacher at my school asked why I wasn't playing the piano for the little kids and conducting the school choir like I used to. I said tearfully, 'Because my piano teacher fired me, and said I had no talent.' So the teacher put Mozart's Piano Sonata K. 330 in front of me, and said, 'Come on, Lang Lang, play the slow movement.' And the whole class begged me to, so I started playing. Suddenly I realized how much I loved playing the piano, and I did feel I had a talent for it. From that point on, this Mozart piece had special significance for me because it brought me hope again."

Lang Lang has happier memories of Schumann's Kinderszenen. "My teacher showed me a video of Horowitz playing it on his return to Moscow, and I thought it was wonderful. But I thought it was a very complex piece and I wanted to prepare for it by playing other pieces first: Brahms, and Schumann's 'Abegg' Variations." Far from being a work for children, it requires maturity and wisdom. "It's like an old man, or a grandmother, thinking about their childhood", says Lang Lang. "An old mind, but a young heart; that should be the feeling when you play this piece."

His enthusiasm for these pieces is infectious and he loves to sing each phrase to demonstrate how Schumann conjures up feelings every child will recognize. His own childhood in China could not have been more different from the composer's. "When I was growing up I didn't have a lot of time for fun. Even at five years old, I used to get up at 5 a.m. to practise and do schoolwork. But I have happy memories of my childhood, and many of them are reflected in Kinderszenen. 'Von fremden Ländern und Menschen' reflects exactly what I felt when I arrived in Germany for the first time to play in a competition, when I was 11. It conjures up the child's sense of curiosity, 'What is this country? What is it all about?' The funny thing is that whereas to me Germany was the foreign country, Schumann was probably imagining China!"

"Haschemann" and "Glückes genug" recall childhood pleasures such as hiding games: "I was the best at hiding - I would squeeze into the tiniest spaces and my friends could never find me", or the excitement of receiving a gift. With the last piece, "Der Dichter spricht", he imagines his mother reading him Chinese poems at bedtime. "The Chinese accent is really musical, and it has a definite beat. The memory of my mother reading helps me to understand this very slow, balanced piece."

Lang Lang regards the Schumann and the Chopin Third Piano Sonata as the biggest challenges on this album. "These two have a very deep meaning for every pianist, and I wanted to wait to record them until it was the right time." Although he has been performing the Chopin since he was 14 or 15, his interpretation today is informed by a much greater understanding of Chopin's use of harmony. "When I was younger, I played very passionately and made a pretty sound, but it wasn't very deep. In general Chopin is a very melodic composer, but this piece is as serious as Beethoven's sonatas. You need to imagine a Romantic style, but the form is Classical. The first movement is like a Beethoven sonata, then there's a scherzo, then a largo, which is like a fantasia, and then a rondo. The four very different movements show the range of his ability on the piano. I'm looking forward to recording this for the first time, and I'm thinking about what kind of sound I'd like to create for each movement. The third movement in particular needs tremendous thought and control. No matter how Romantic and how free the piece is, there must be tension there - not physical tension, but a holding together. And in the fourth movement, you have to make a big sound, but you cannot play Chopin chords like Rachmaninov, for example. It shouldn't be explosive, but it should have an explosive feeling."

After all this deep, controlled playing, the Horowitz arrangement of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody gives Lang Lang an excuse to let his hair down. "We'll have some real fun", he says mischievously. "I dreamed of playing this piece since I saw the amazing Tom and Jerry cartoon. Tom the cat is actually playing like Horowitz, with the flat fingered technique that he's so famous for! When I was 12, I played the original version of the Hungarian Rhapsody, and I was very disappointed. But this one is fantastic. It's as if your fingers were flying. It reminds me of Chinese martial arts, like in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." He's aware of the danger of turning it into a showpiece. "Instead, I want to make a convincing artistic interpretation." The technical challenges hold no fears for him. "You have to sound as if you have three or four hands. You have to figure out how to do it, and then it's not so hard to play. You need to train, like a magician!"

But Lang Lang reserves his highest praise for Mozart, a composer he has come to appreciate more and more as he gets older. "When I was a kid, I didn't really see how great he is. I always thought his music was beautiful, and I enjoyed playing it. But it's as delicate and precious as an Egyptian or a Chinese work of art from 3000 years ago - like a set of dolls which get smaller and smaller and fit one into another. Such delicacy in such a small space. Mozart's music is also precious, and you need to hold it very carefully in your hand."

Lang Lang is always eager to learn, and to go on learning. "Music is like that. The more you get into it, the more you realize how little you know. But working with great musicians like Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta or Christoph Eschenbach has opened up new worlds for me, new ideas and new ways of seeing and hearing." This CD reflects some of the musical insights Lang Lang has gained on his journey from childhood to maturity.

Amanda Holloway