Lang Lang on Franz Liszt

Happy Birthday Franz Liszt Born Today in 1811


Excerpt from 2011 NPR Interview with Guy Raz:

Illustration of Franz Liszt. The Hungarian composer and pianist revolutionized the art of performance.RAZ: Lang Lang is a world-renowned concert pianist, and his love of Liszt is well-known. As a matter of fact, his new album is called "Liszt: My Piano Hero." He first heard Liszt's music as a 2-year-old while watching a famous television duo.

LANG LANG: "Tom and Jerry," and they were playing the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and I got fascinated.

RAZ: So you're watching "Tom and Jerry" play Liszt.

LANG: Yeah.

RAZ: Oh, actually, Liszt was playing behind them rather.

LANG: Yeah, and I thought it was such exciting music. So he really lead me into a professional pianist.
RAZ: What is it about Liszt's style that appeals to you so much as a performer?

LANG: He is a real piano god, so he make piano sound like entire orchestra. And he has this amazing technique like nobody else. At the same time, he brings passion and love and heart.

RAZ: You have said, Lang Lang, that as a composer, Liszt actually opened the door to modern music. How so?

LANG: The piano as an instrument was pretty weak that time. So Liszt is totally a monster at the piano. You know, he create such difficult pieces. So he always destroy pianos during the concerts.

RAZ: He actually destroyed them? He broke them?

LANG: Yeah. And because of his technique and his incredible power, piano as an instrument had a revolution and became much better instrument and much more solid.

RAZ: It's rare that Liszt comes up in, you know, top 10 lists of great composers of all time or - and I'm wondering why you think that is?

LANG: He focus a lot on piano music, not on many other instruments. Not like Beethoven or Mozart or Tchaikovsky, you know? They are more - they grow not only great piano work, but also symphonic work, tremor music - a bit like Paganini, you know? I mean, Paganini is famous for violin only, and Liszt is that type of composer - for piano

RAZ: And Paganini influenced Liszt's playing as well, right?
Happy Birthday Franz Liszt Born today in 1811!!
LANG: Absolutely. Liszt - when Liszt was a kid, he saw Paganini playing at violin, and he said that I'd like to be the Paganini on a piano.

RAZ: Some of this music sounds like actually - sounds like a workout. Does playing Liszt actually take a physical toll on you?

LANG: Absolutely. Playing Liszt, you need to put all your emotions and also very physical. I mean, his music - Paganini - it used La Campanella. It's very, very demanding. I mean, I exercise before I record this album.

RAZ: Lang Lang, I know you're performing Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra tonight. And I'm looking through your - the liner notes of your new CD, and there's a photograph of you at the piano looking pretty good, man. You got like lasers coming out of your fingers at the piano. So I'm wondering, do you expect any Lang Lang-o-mania to break out tonight?

LANG: It will be quite hard, and the piece is very hard. So maybe you will see laser light but through music.

RAZ: You got any bodyguards on stage, or are there going to be, you know, audience members jumping up on stage to get locks of your hair?

LANG: Well, you know, for Philadelphia, I think we are pretty safe.

RAZ: That's Lang Lang. He's one of the most in demand concert pianists in the world. His new album is called "Liszt: My Piano Hero." And his hero, Franz Liszt, was born 200 years ago today. Lang Lang, thank you so much.

LANG: Thank you. Thank you, Guy.

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