Composers: Mozart, Beethoven et al
Performers: Lang Lang p
Catalogue Number: DG 4797441

In his first album release since 2016, Lang Lang has returned to his “first love, to the pieces that made me want to become a musician in the first place”. The works will be familiar, perhaps painfully so, to students. Bach’s Prelude in C, Beethoven’s Für Elise, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, and even Chopsticks accompany less commonly practiced pieces from Max Richter, Yann Tiersen, and Elena Kats-Chernin, along with arrangements from Sweden (Limu, limu, lima), China (Jasmine Flower), and Korea (Arirang).

Lang quite rightly observes of these works and the many others on the two-disc release that “Generations of amateur pianists have grown up with them and their melodies have become classics. But these masterworks seldom receive the careful attention they deserve.” Clearly, Piano Book will appeal to teachers and their students; one edition of the release even comes accompanied with a luxury, 115-page hardback sheet music collection.

Lang has brought all of his artistic attention to the pieces, treating them as serious music. Many students will be familiar with the Czerny etude, “the bane of many a young player’s early musical practice”, observes the liner notes, but “a work that contains so much more music that you’d ever expect.” Indeed, under Lang’s capable hands, even the most well-known Mozart and Bach melodies are subject to elegant interpretive treatment. Some pieces become quite expansive, although there is a sense here that the virtuoso wants to encourage listeners to think about the creative potential of these well-worn tunes.

As Lang recalls, playing such etudes and sonatas was part of his daily routine, but there were too few quality recordings available. Piano Book goes a long way toward addressing this notable absence.