Piano Concerto: The Fire (2008)
9 April 2008
Lang Lang, piano
New York Philharmonic
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
New York, NY
For any composer, to write for the piano is a challenge. The instrument has a specific character, yet it can be like an orchestra in itself…
The piano, though, has difficulty reflecting the surface of oriental style. It is not like a string instrument. It cannot use glissando–at least on the outside–which is very important to the character of Eastern music. As a string player myself, much of what mirrors my musical life could be lost. I have to think of new ways to use the instrument, perhaps invent new techniques to make it familiar… to find something new that fits on the continuum, so there is balance.
I am a string player, but I also play percussion. These are the elements of my life: fire, which is percussion, and water, which is string. And once you look beneath the surface, you see many things about the piano that can reflect oriental life. You have percussion. You can achieve a transparent, crystalline timbre that reflects the purity of the guqin. And once I started thinking of this, I found my approach to the piano. The guqin gives me the room and imagination to write. In this way, I can hear the instrument of Chopin and Bartók relocated to some dream plane as an ancient mountain lute.
—from an interview with music journalist Ken Smith