Dragon Songsby Lang Lang
Dragon Songs, Lang Lang's survey of Chinese piano music, makes a fascinating complement to his previous solo recital, Memory. On that release, the pianist performed familiar works of European classical music that he had studied in his early years at the keyboard; here, he taps into his roots from another angle, offering music from China that's rarely, if ever, heard in the West. Our idea of what Chinese music sounds like -- or any Asian music, for that matter -- is indebted to composers like Debussy and Ravel, who borrowed widely from other cultures in pursuit of the exotic. It's striking to hear Chinese composers borrowing back, writing for Western instruments in styles that mix local folk materials with European sounds. Some of the solo pieces Lang Lang chooses to play here, such as Lü Wencheng's Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake, or Du Mingxin's Straw Hat Dance, could easily pass for French impressionism, while Zhu Jianer's toccata-like Happy Times bears a trace of Prokofiev's keyboard style. The latter connection -- between the People's Republic and the USSR -- makes political sense too: Composers under both regimes were required to produce optimistic music for the masses, a dictate that also spawned the Yellow River Piano Concerto. Arranged in 1969 by a four-composer committee, based on a choral cantata from three decades earlier, this concerto combines Tchaikovsky-like piano virtuosity with socialist hymns and anthems, all of which Lang Lang tosses off with a technical aplomb just as compelling as his performances of other great Romantic piano concertos. Perhaps most appealing of all are the three final tracks, where Lang Lang duets with virtuosi of the traditional Chinese pipa, guanzi, and guzheng. Combining with the piano to create an array of different sounds and textures, these pieces -- like all of Dragon Songs -- allow Lang Lang to bring East and West together in fresh and surprising ways that transcend any musical stereotypes.
- Release Date:
- Deutsche Grammophon
- Yellow River Concerto for piano & orchestra
- Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake, for piano
- The Cowherd's Flute, for piano
- Dialogue in Song, for piano
- Dance of Spring, for piano
- The Mermaid suite, for piano: Straw Hat Dance
- Spring Wind, for piano
- Happy Times, for piano
- Moonlit Night at the Flowery River in Spring, for pipa
- Silk Road suite, for piano: Dance from Quici
- At Night on the Lake Beneath the Maple Bridge, for piano
Performance CreditsLang Lang Primary Artist
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DRAGON SONGS is a spectacular endeavor and did I forget to say "what a value".
This is an absolutely wonderful DVD jam-packed with interviews and background information on all of these most beautiful Chinese works coupled with an accompanying CD. The DVD presents a documentary presenting the influences in Lang Lang's life and even paints a picture of his family portrait and the featured works are also shown being played in concert.
Lang Lang wanted to give tribute to his heritage and help promote the wonderful and rich tradition of Chinese music. He wanted to make this music more widely known and in this he has been remarkably successful.
He stated, "I grew up in a family of musicians- my father is an erhu (two-string violin) player, and my grandfather played the Chinese flute and a Chinese lute called the pipa. Whenever my relatives got together; we would have family concerts, with me at the piano - I tried playing the Chinese violin, but I was hopeless! I did a lot of mixing of traditions when I was a kid, and that's what I've tried to do on this album. I hope it wil open a door to Chinese culture and music for my audience, These melodies are heard all over China: I've known them since I was a baby. My mother would sing them, my father would play them. They were like fairytales for me."
One of the compositions featured is the Yellow River Concerto which was composed by Xian Xinghai in 1939 during the Japanese occupation. According to Lang Lang, the Chinese people went through a terrible ordeal in the last 150 years and it was felt that China's creative standing in the world had been lost; this piece is a reminder to him that as a people they can do great things again. One of his main reasons for doing this was for a cultural exchange. He said that "he loves the idea of making connections between Chinese culture and the rest of the world."
Also included is a haunting piece called "The Cowherd's Flute" by He Luting. In 1934, the first musical competition for the piano took place and eleven Chinese composers submitted a total of 20 works. This was the winner of that competition. It is a song which tells the story of a farmhand, poor and alone who plays the flute to his animals for their happiness and for his own. It is extremely well known in China. In fact, the number one instrument in China today is the piano. It is a "hot" instrument and in fact it is to China like football is to us.
Each piece of music has its own story and Lang Lang expertly and carefully tells the viewer the history, the meaning of the Chinese composition's title and what each composition is about and what the music conveys to the listener. He also reveals what he felt was the significance of each piece and what contributed to it being selected.
Family and tradition are such integral cornerstones in the Chinese culture. Meeting Lang Lang's parents; once a humble army musician married to a young dancer who made inordinate sacrifices for their one and only child gives us a glimpse into what drives this young musician.
Each one of the beautiful pieces included in this collection conducts the richest dialogue in what tradition means to the Chinese people.