Lang Lang – Saint-Saëns New Album Releases In March

Lang Lang plays a selection of exquisite French music on his new album Lang Lang – Saint-Saëns. Due for release on 1 March on the Deutsche Grammophon label, the recording features Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and The Carnival of the Animals along with other French classics and arrangements.
Performing with Lang Lang on this album are his wife, pianist Gina Alice, the Gewandhausorchester and Andris Nelsons who join him in the magical Carnival of the Animals, Saint-Saëns’s “Grand Zoological Fantasy” for two pianos and orchestra, and the virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 2.  Also included are a dozen works for solo piano and piano four hands – a blend of Belle Époque favourites and neglected gems by female French composers.
This exciting audio-visual project includes a concert film of the Piano Concerto No. 2, made live in concert at Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, and a performance film of Carnival of the Animals, both of which will be shown on TV internationally, as well as on DG’s video streaming service STAGE+. Carnival of the Animals, featuring Gina Alice as second pianist, premiered on the platform on 10 February, while the Second Piano Concerto will follow in April.
Lang Lang’s decision to open the album with Carnival of the Animals reflects his mission to attract children to classical music. This is a work that has enchanted generations of young listeners and introduced millions to the genre. It is piece full of imagination, brilliant wit and illustrations of animals in music.
The 14-movement musical bestiary was written at speed in 1886 and its parodies of music by, among others, Rossini, Offenbach, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns himself, apparently intended for the amusement of his students, received several private or semi-private performances before being shelved to spare Saint-Saëns from losing his reputation as a “serious” artist.
Lang Lang calls Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto a “magnificent but underrated Romantic masterpiece”. He was first drawn to its fusion of Germanic Romanticism and Gallic flair during his student days. He decribes the opening as a tribute to Bach, the second movement like Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the finale very virtuosic, like Bach and Franz Liszt combined.
Lang Lang includes some well-known smaller-scale pieces for solo/four hands on the album, including Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte, the Toccata from Saint-Saëns’s Six Études, Op. 111 and the Pavane by Fauré, as well as arrangements of In paradisum from Fauré’s Requiem and the Flower Duet from Delibes’s opera Lakmé. For Debussy’s Petite Suite Lang Lang is again joined by Gina Alice.
Finally, Lang Lang – Saint Saëns showcases the music of five female French composers largely overlooked until recent years. Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), arguably the most famous among them, became the first woman to win the coveted Prix de Rome. Lang Lang gives a spellbinding performance of Boulanger’s sublimely beautiful D’un jardin clair. Also on the playlist is music by Mélanie-Hélène Bonis (1858–1937), Louise Farrenc (1804–75), Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983) and Charlotte Sohy.

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