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Lang Lang At The Movies
Lang Lang (piano)
rec. 2010-16, various venues
SONY CLASSICAL 19075951522 [69:32]

Lang Lang is a popular Chinese pianist whose concert schedule includes performances with some of the world’s top orchestras. His versatility is in high demand, and his work has appeared on many soundtracks for the film industry. This disc presents Lang Lang performing 14 piano arrangements from the world of cinematic music, including seven piano solos. All of these numbers were recorded between 2010 and 2016 in various studios in Europe and the U.S.

The majority of film music is composed specifically for a particular film, either as a theme or for background music effect. Film composer Hans Zimmer has written music for over 150 soundtracks, and three of his works appear on this disc. Gladiator Rhapsody appeared in the Oscar-nominated film score for Gladiator and it appears here as a dramatic piano solo. Lang Lang performs Flight, from the 2013 film Man of Steel, joined by violinist Maxim Vengerov and the Czech Philharmonic, with Gavin Greenaway conducting. Hans composed Oogway’s Legacy for the film Kung Ku Panda 3, with Lang Lang joined by celloist Jian Wang, Gan Guo performing on erhu, and an unidentified studio orchestra. All three pieces are well-played and fill a role for dramatic background music.

Some film music originates from other sources and finds its way into films. Lang Lang performs several familiar solos that were born in different eras. He elegantly captures the essence of Chopin’s haunting piano masterpiece, Nocturne in C-sharp minor with a graceful performance. Composed in 1830 and published posthumously in 1870, the piece was used in the opening of the 2002 Roman Polanski film The Pianist, set in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Scott Joplin wrote the rag-time classic The Entertainer in 1902, and it became the theme for the 1973 film The Sting. The piece’s musical structure is loosely interpreted on this recording, and Joplin’s elegant rag-time syncopation is changed to a vague swing rhythm with an inconsistent tempo, making the tune barely recognizable.

Three numbers on this disc were recorded in December 2015 with the Hungarian Studio Orchestra, conducted by Peter Illenyi. Lang Lang is joined by jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux and dobroist Jerry Douglas in a sparkling Vince Mendoza arrangement of Moon River, composed by Henri Mancini, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It is my favorite song on this disc. The tune appeared in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Vince also arranged Spider-man Theme, composed by Danny Elfman. Lang Lang performs the eerie number with violinist Lindsey Sterling and Thomas Dybahl on keyboards. The song Tonight was written by composer Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, for the 1957 musical West Side Story. Billy Childs provides a brilliant arrangement that features a vibrant trumpet solo by Sean Jones, aided by outstanding performances by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and Dan Lutz on bass.

An interesting 24-page booklet with notes and photographs is included with the disc, with details and recording information about each selection. Comments are written in German, French and English. The sound quality is excellent.

Bruce McCollum

Nocturne in C-sharp minor, B 49 (featured in The Pianist) Frederic Chopin [4:41]
Gladiator Rhapsody (from Gladiator) Hans Zimmer [4:38]
Live and Let Die (from James Bond) Paul and Linda McCartney [2:58]
Marilyn’s Theme (from My Week with Marilyn) Alexandre Desplat [1:44]
Flight (from Man of Steel) Hans Zimmer [4:30]
Poldark Prelude (from Poldark) Anne Dudley [3:40]
Moon River (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s) Henry Mancini [5:33]
Oogway’s Legacy (from Kung Fu Panda 3) Hans Zimmer [1:59]
Rondo alla turca ; Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K 331: (featured in The Truman Show) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [2:08]
Spider-man Theme (from Spiderman) Danny Elfman [4:07]
The Hateful Eight Overture (from The Hateful Eight) Ennio Morricone [3:43]
Tonight (from West Side Story) Leonard Bernstein [4:51]
The Entertainer (as featured in The Sting) Scott Joplin [3:38]
Rhapsody in Blue (as featured in Manhattan) George Gershwin [21:22]

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