Lang Lang's Palace of Versailles dream comes true

Chinese pianist Lang Lang records his new album at the Palace of Versailles.

Chinese pianist Lang Lang is seeking to highlight a connection between Russian composer Tchaikovsky and Polish composer Frederic Chopin, both with ties to France, in his new album Lang Lang in Paris.

The album, which was released on Sept 25, was recorded in June at Salle Liebermann in Paris' Opera Bastille.

The pianist also gave an identical recital in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles a few weeks after the recording, which was filmed for sale on DVDs.

As one of the biggest stars in the world of classical music, Lang Lang, 33, has been constantly recording and performing at world-renowned venues, such as New York's Carnegie Hall, Vienna's Musikverein and London's Royal Albert Hall, over the past few decades.

But his dream has been to perform at the Palace of Versailles ever since his first visit to Paris in 2001.

"The sculptures, paintings and the surroundings of Versailles Palace, the view across the Seine River and the Notre Dame de Paris, everything is so inspiring and romantic in Paris," he told China Daily before the album was released.

Talking about nature's beauty, Lang Lang recalls a rainy day in late June, when he was recording his music at the palace and suddenly the sun came out, transforming the place.

At the time, he was playing Tchaikovsky's The Seasons, including pieces such as January: At the Fireside and December: Christmas, for his new album.

During the recordings, he stayed at the palace for two days.

The special features of the Hall of Mirrors, with 17 mirror-clad arches reflecting the arcaded windows while overlooking the gardens, made everything seem surreal to Lang Lang, he says.

"As he played them in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors, he recalls gazing up at the paintings overhead, and as the notes emerged from his fingers, he saw the scenes portrayed as if for the first time, music and image fused in this remarkable setting," wrote James Jolly, music critic and editor of Gramophone, one of the world's most respected classical record magazines, of Lang Lang's new album.

Besides Tchaikovsky's The Seasons, Lang Lang also chose Chopin's four scherzi for the new album. Chopin's pieces were from 1831 to 1843, covering the period in which the Polish composer experienced war, moved to France, had a relationship with French writer George Sand and died following an illness.

"Both composers were great musicians and poets. They influenced me when I first started playing the piano," says Lang Lang, adding that he has a valuable handwritten letter by Tchaikovsky, which was written in French.

Lang Lang also says Tchaikovsky and Chopin have played a major role in his career.

When he was 17, the Chinese pianist stood in for African-American pianist Andre Watts at a Ravinia Festival concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the work he played was Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto.

That concert marked the beginning of Lang Lang's international career and brought him to the attention of German-born pianist and composer Christoph Eschenbach, who became his mentor later.

Chopin's music has accompanied Lang Lang for long.

It all started when he began to learn the piano at age 3, and then moved out of his hometown Shenyang in Northeast China's Liaoning province to Beijing to pursue his music studies.

Lang Lang played Chopin's works at Beijing Concert Hall and also with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in Japan as a teenager.

In 2013, the pianist recorded an album based on Chopin's music, his first recording devoted to the romantic composer, including Etudes and Ballades.

In addition to promoting this latest album, Lang Lang has a full agenda to perform.

On the night of Sept 3, he also played Yellow River Piano Concerto at a grand gala in Beijing that was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

By the end of the year, Lang Lang will perform with New York Philharmonic during its 2015-16 season.

As United Nations Messenger of Peace, the pianist will also perform at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the world body.

What's exciting for Lang Lang is that he will have his first concert in Cuba next year, collaborating with Cuban pianist-composer Chucho Valdes.

"The best thing about being a pianist is that I can use music to communicate with people from different cultures," he says.

"I hope to make some changes to the world with music."