17 September 2020-
Imagine re-discovering a song by The Beatles or the Rolling Stones but with another arrangement, another style, speed even. This is what Lang lang is proposing with "his" Goldberg Variations.
Lang Lang is fast becoming a bona fide rock star of classical music. At the age of 38, he is already considered to be one of the most brilliant piano players of our time. And, with his boyish smiley face and sometimes jeans and sneakers-wearing demeanor, he could very well be in the process of making classical music cool again. But this facade should not take us away from the fact that the artist has one of the strongest piano backgrounds in the world, studying relentlessly with some of the finest instructors at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and later at the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia.
Then, on September 4th, Lang Lang released his most audacious work yet: his interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This piece has been one of the benchmarks and somewhat compulsory steps for most top piano players over the years, making the artist walk in the footsteps of giants like Barenboim and the inevitable Glenn Gould — some going as far as saying that the Goldberg Variations should be renamed the Gouldberg Variations… What is also interesting is that this new version is released with one of the most celebrated labels in the industry, none other than Deutsche Grammophon itself.
So Lang Lang means business here. What unfolds is an arguably different take from its predecessors, maybe a bit less rythmic then Glenn Gould’s 1981 take, and maybe less diverse than Barenboim’s — or less crazy than Keith Jarret’s harpsichord version, but what it is is a more romantic, playful and grandiose approach. The artist seems to be having quite a bit of fun with his interpretations, the triolets are joyful and the variations beautifully colored. There is intent behind every phrase, and yet a common modern way of looking at the piece.
Even though somehow very different from a lot of the “established” versions, this album will no doubt solidify Lang Lang’s position as one of the most interesting piano players of the day, as well as shed back even more light on how much of a masterpiece Bach’s Goldberg Variations really are…