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Get to know Chopin's music as the pianist shows us his take on these Romantic piano works.
Lang Lang has long been a champion of Chopin's music, and records a selection of the most famous pieces on this showpiece album. "When you’ve learnt works like the Études it gives you real confidence," he said. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
Fast and frenetic, it's no wonder this buzzing étude is known as 'The Bees'. Although it's pretty speedy, it's not the pace of the music that causes the most difficulties for pianists; the rhythm of the left and right hands work against each other in a complex pattern, creating a web-like effect. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
Chopin never called this piece 'The Horseman' - in fact, he absolutely hated the nickname - but listening to the galloping rhythms in the piece, it's difficult to imagine it being called anything else.
"The reason that Chopin’s Études hold such a special place for pianists," Lang Lang says, "is that they provide the training for so many different elements of technique. It's certainly true of this étude: crisp and bright, the music is marked by its impressive musical leaps in the left hand, sometimes spanning as far as two octaves. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
It's one of Chopin's more technical study-style études, notable for its quick bursts of clashing notes throughout the music. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's known as the 'Wrong Note' étude.
Chopin is an expert at turning a dry, technical exercise into something altogether more exciting. Even in this étude, which only uses chords in the right hand to make up the tune, he manages to make the piece sound musical and exciting. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
Lang Lang brings out the mournful left hand tune in his recording of Chopin's 7th étude - highlighting the very reason this study is nicknamed 'cello'.
Where the 6th étude consisted mainly of intervals of a third, this one uses intervals of a sixth, in both hands! It's tricky to make Chopin's unusual fingerings sound smooth, but Lang Lang manages to keep the music sounding fluid and exciting all at once. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
It's one of the cheekiest études in the set, sounding all the more exciting thanks to its unusual key signature of six flats.
This is one of the longest études in the set, clocking in at almost 5 minutes on Lang Lang's recording. Despite this, throughout the entire work, Chopin only stipulates five different dynamic markings. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
This stormy study, known as the 'Winter Wind' étude is an exercise in sheer endurance, thanks to its fiendishly difficult notes. Even Lang Lang himself found it tricky as a child: "I always found ‘Winter Wind’ extremely difficult and though I worked at it a lot it was always difficult to ‘get’," he said.
Even for a great pianist like Lang Lang, performing such an intense programme can take its toll: "When you’re a youngster and you’re playing the Études in concert," he said, "by the end of it – and especially when you reach No. 11 – you’re generally feeling pretty exhausted, not just physically but also mentally!"
Composed between 1842 and 1844, this is the second of two nocturnes in the set. Languid and peaceful, Lang Lang swaps the showmanship of the Études for this more relaxed example of Chopin's style. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
Lang Lang tackles the first in the set of three nocturnes, written between 1830 and 1833. The peaceful opening soon gives way to some of Chopin's more stormy writing.
Chopin's first published waltz for solo piano, expertly handled under Lang Lang's fingers. Grand Valse Brillante is one of Chopin's most famous piano pieces, and it's easy to see why with its cheery tune and dancing bass line.
This quietly rippling piano piece wasn't originally part of Chopin's Op. 22. He completed the music in 1834 and added it to the start of the Grande polonaise brillante, joining the two parts with a fanfare-like sequence.
Just as the first movement wasn't originally part of the piece, the second half of Chopin's Op. 22 began life in quite a different guise: it was originally arranged for piano quartet. Lang Lang brings out the variety in the different tunes spanning the entire keyboard. Picture: Peter Hönnemann
A relaxing change of direction now as Lang Lang performs this Nocturne, first published 26 years after Chopin's death. You might recognise this mournful tune from Roman Polanski's film The Pianist.
Full steam ahead for Lang Lang as he puts his stamp on Chopin's speedy waltz. But don't be fooled: it's 'minute' as in 'small', not as in 'lasts 60 seconds'.