Pianist Lang Lang in collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon will release a new recording of J S Bach’s Goldberg Variations on 4 September 2020.
The culmination of a 20-year journey and his most personal project yet, the album features a studio recording and a live performance from the legendary Thomaskirche in Leipzig.
For Lang Lang, recording Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece is the realisation of a lifelong dream. The recording of two complementary performances was firstly made in a single take in concert at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Bach’s workplace for almost 30 years and site of his grave; the second was made soon after, in the seclusion of the studio. The two recordings are available together as part of a super deluxe edition, a world first simultaneous live and studio album release.
Now aged 38, Lang Lang finally felt ready to record Bach’s great Aria and 30 variations. “While that’s not old,” he says, “I think the time was right for a new stage in my artistic development,” comments Lang Lang. “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.”
Land Lang’s study of Bach began with childhood lessons in Bach’s music in his native China. He was just 17 when he played the Goldberg Variations from memory for the conductor and pianist Christoph Eschenbach, an unforgettable experience for both musicians. Lang Lang subsequently sought expert advice from leading interpreters of Bach’s music, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and harpsichordist and early keyboard specialist Andreas Staier among them.
In early March 2020, shortly before beginning his studio sessions, Lang Lang gave a poignant public performance of the work in Leipzig. “Playing in the Thomaskirche, where Bach is buried, was unbelievably emotional for me,” he recalls. “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.” He adds “This isn’t just the most exceptional and creative work in the keyboard repertoire, it’s also the most multidimensional,” observes Lang Lang. “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.”