Classical / Documentary

Dragon Songs

Performed by Lang Lang

Distributed by: Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            I recently received Dragon Songs by Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang.  This particular edition of Dragon Songs contains both a CD of his music and a DVD documentary of his Dragon Songs tour.

            Many of the pieces found on the Dragon Songs CD were composed in China approximately 200 years ago.  There is no denying the complexity and fluidity of the composition of each of these pieces.  Lang Lang’s performance of such as the Yellow River Piano Concerto, Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake, The Cowherd’s Flute and the Straw Hat Dance are a beauty to behold.  I especially enjoyed Dance of Spring, a fast-paced piece filled with joy, happiness and a hint of excitement and Happy Times, a light, playful piece.

            As much of a joy as it was to listen to these performances on CD, it was even more of a delight to actually see Lang Lang perform these pieces on the DVD as viewed on the DVD’s extras.  Accompanied by these performances are interviews with Lang Lang about each of the pieces he performs for the DVD.  But the main focus of this DVD is Lang Lang and his latest tour of China.  Lang Lang in China, a documentary by Benedict Mirow, takes us on a tour with Lang Lang encompassing eight major cities in China and culminating in a special performance at the Great Hall of the People.

            Throughout the documentary, we learn snippets of Lang Lang’s life as a child in the conservatory up until his present day fame.  As Lang Lang visits each city of China, he reminisces about his times in his homeland and the various cities he is visiting.  According to Lang Lang, this tour in particular, in which he is able to visit the city he was raised in and trained in is “like recharging the batteries.”  You can see the happiness he feels in participating in this tour. 

            The Dragon Songs tour is not just an opportunity for fans of Lang Lang to see him perform.  This tour includes Master Classes taught to aspiring young pianists by Lang Lang himself.  China has the greatest number of students of classical music and piano is more popular than any Chinese instrument.  Lang Lang believes that Master Classes are not meant to be classes at all.  Instead, he prefers to see them as an open-hearted discussion with friends in which each aides one another in their craft.  You can see the delight on the face of each of the students Lang Lang instructs.

            Of course, not all of the memories of Lang Lang’s life as a piano virtuoso are happy ones.  Interviews with Lang Lang’s parents reveal the great sacrifices made by his musician father and dancer mother, all to further their son’s career.  Watching Lang Lang interact with his family and his students, we can see that he is very playful and enjoys his chosen profession.  However, it would seem that he is not without regrets.  This is most visible in his discussion of the day he chooses to honor family members who have passed away while he was investing time in his career.  He refers to these losses as lost time.  We also get the feeling that Lang Lang’s life is very lonely and hectic – moving from place to place while performing - Lang Lang barely recognizes the home which he purchased a year before, but only stayed in for two nights.

            The documentary gives fans of Lang Lang’s work new insight into the pianist as a performer and as a person.  Watching him perform – the expressiveness of each performance – one can see that Lang Lang is truly immersed in the music he is performing.  As Lang Lang stated numerous times in the documentary, one must truly feel the music in order to perform it well.  Obviously, Lang Lang has taken his own words to heart.  The Dragon Songs CD is a collection of beautiful performed Chinese composed music.  The Dragon Songs DVD is extremely educational and enjoyable.  Joined together as a set, the CD and DVD will make a happy edition to any classical music aficionado’s collection.


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