Lang Lang gets loose

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-09-19 07:49:57


Lang Lang gets loose

Lang Lang and US musician Kandace Springs perform in Beijing to promote the Chinese pianist's new crossover album, New York Rhapsody.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Savoring a detour from his classical music focus, the star pianist teams up with some jazzy collaborators, Chen Nan reports.

American jazz musician Herbie Hancock teamed up with Chinese pianist Lang Lang for a six-minute version of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at the Grammy Awards ceremony in 2008. It was a big night for Hancock, who won his 12th Grammy for album of the year with River: The Joni Letters. It was also a rewarding experience for Lang.

"When we worked on the collaboration, I played Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in my way, which is traditional and classical. Then Herbie performed his version, which stunned me," recalls Lang in Beijing recently. "He presented every note of the piece with a different color, which is free and fresh. The piano doesn't sound like a piano. It's like from inside his heart."

The collaboration started Lang's first step toward improvisation and led him to make a crossover album. After five years of preparations, the album was released on Friday.

Titled New York Rhapsody, the 10-track album features 10 collaborating guest artists, including Hancock, Kandace Springs and Sean Jones.

"This album is my boldest project to date," says the 34-year-old pianist, who is not just an international soloist but a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He has published a piano book for beginners and owns his perfume brand.

"I have spent my life perfecting my performance as a classical pianist. I have covered music pieces from some of the greatest composers, such as Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart. But this new album displays a different side of me.

"Crossover is not easy. I have spent five years finding the right people to work with."

Born in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, Lang started playing the piano at age of 3 and soared to stardom by 10 when he won the top prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians' Competition.

After discussing his ideas with dozens of producers, Lang finally met Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein, who inspired him to make New York City the theme of his album.

"It's like telling a story with the album, from the morning to the evening of living in New York," says the pianist, who visited the city for the first time in 1996 when he was 14, to participate in a music summer camp.

In 1997, he began studies with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

"My teacher (Graffman) is a New Yorker. I went to New York every week," he recalls. "My impression about the city is the crowds and people of different colors, who speak different languages.

"New York has changed the course of music more than any other in the last hundred years. It has inspired and enriched me beyond words and has become my home away from home."

He was named the city's first ambassador for cultural tourism in July.

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