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THE SCOOP | Lang Lang Releases ‘The Goldberg Variations’ With Personal Introduction From Beijing

By Anya Wassenberg on September 3, 2020

Lang Lang Goldberg Variations

Superstar pianist Lang Lang will release not one, but two recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, with a streaming event live from Beijing on the release date of September 4. The unique double release on Deutsche Grammophon includes a live version captured during a single take from the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, and a studio version of the same work.

To mark the official release, Lang Lang will be streaming a live event on his YouTube channel, including a performance of excerpts from the recordings, along with a Q&A session. In a release, Lang Lang is calling it his most personal project yet, and the “culmination of a 20-year journey”.

“I’m now 38 and, while that’s not old, I think the time was right for a new stage in my artistic development,” he says in a media release. “I’ve moved into new terrain with the Goldberg Variations and really immersed myself fully in this project. My goal as an artist is to keep becoming more self-aware and more knowledgeable, as well as to keep offering inspiration to others. It’s an ongoing process, but this project has taken me a little further along the path.”

The Goldberg Variations have played a unique role in Lang Lang’s career and development as an artist. It was the work he played for memory for conductor and pianist Christoph Eschenbach at the tender age of 17. Over time, he looked for the advice of Bach experts like harpsichordist and early keyboard specialist Andreas Staier to help develop his relationship with the monumental work.

It was in January 2020, just before going into the studio, that he performed the Goldberg Variations at the Thomaskirche, an experience that Lang Lang felt profoundly. The result was an unusual opportunity to record and release both versions.

“Playing in the Thomaskirche, where Bach is buried, was unbelievably emotional for me,” he says in the release. “I’ve never felt as close to a composer as I did during that recital. The live version is very spontaneous, whereas in the studio version my playing is different – very considered and reflective. In a concert situation you experience the 100-minute work as a whole. In the studio you can focus on individual details and nuances, and of course that can affect the musical experience quite substantially.”

The Aria is already available on Lang Lang’s YouTube channel.

The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 was first published in 1741. It is considered a landmark composition, and one that demands expertise in performance technique. In 1802, Johann Nicolaus Forkel, who wrote the first biography of Bach, claimed the piece was named after a certain Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, a teenager attached to the Russian ambassador who took lessons from J.S. As the story went, the ambassador, a Count, commissioned the piece so that Goldberg could play it to soothe his nights of insomnia.

“This isn’t just the most exceptional and creative work in the keyboard repertoire, it’s also the most multidimensional,” Lang Lang says. “It allows us to draw on everything we have within ourselves, but also makes us realise what’s missing and what we still have to learn.”

Lang Lang’s personal introduction to Bach’s Goldberg Variations will take place live from the historic Temple Dongjingyuanin in Beijing, China, streaming on his YouTube channel Friday, September 4 at 7 a.m. PDT / 10 a.m. EDT / 3 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. CEST / 10 p.m. CST — free of charge.


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