Some of his childhood favorites

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Lang Lang returns with new piano album after three years, Chen Nan reports. 

In April 2017, Chinese pianist Lang Lang, one of the most well-known pianists in the world, hurt his left hand and had to cancel his concerts for more than a year due to the severe inflammation.

"It was very depressing when I had to cancel one concert after another. I had no idea when I could return to the stage," recalls the pianist.

But during the hiatus, he worked on a new album, titled Piano Book, which is scheduled to be released on March 29.

Appearing in Beijing on Monday, the pianist, wearing a white suit and a pair of golden sneakers, talked about his new album, a double CD, in which he performs 41 pieces. He couldn't wait to play for the audience some of the pieces from the album that had inspired him to play the piano as a child and led to international stardom in his adult life.

"Here is Mozart Piano Sonata, which I performed when I made my debut show at the age of 5. I had heavy makeup onstage then," he said, laughing and then played the piece.

Lang Lang plays pieces from his upcoming album, Piano Book, scheduled to be released on March 29, at an event in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

After that he played Carl Czerny's The School of Velocity, and said "there are some music pieces that my neighbors complain about because of the loud sound. This is one of them because it is pretty fast and improves finger technique".

Other pieces, including Beethoven's Bagatelle No 25 in A minor; Debussy's Clair de lune and Frederic Chopin's the Prelude Op 28, No 15, also known as Raindrop, are included in the album.

The pianist wowed tourists on Valentine's Day as he gave a concert in Paris, performing pieces from his new album on a boat cruising along the Seine. The concert came just a day after he became the first Chinese artist to win an award at Paris' Victoires de la Musique Classique ceremony.

"When I couldn't perform due to my hand injury, I had a lot of time to think. I wanted to make an album to remind myself of my first encounter with the piano. So I chose the pieces that I had performed as a child," says the pianist.

"I want to inspire other young pianists with this new recording."

In Beijing, Lang also spoke about the concert of Ukrainian-born, American classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz in Moscow that he watched at his teacher, Zhu Yafen's home, in 1986.

"The great pianist played some pieces, which are technically demanding. But what touched me the most was Robert Schumann's Traumerei, which is simple yet beautiful," he says.

"Some of the pieces I chose for the new album are short and simple but they are artistic."

Piano Book is his new album in three years and his first since returning to Deutsche Grammophon and Universal Music.

He recorded the album at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing in July just two weeks after his opening performance at the Tanglewood Music Festival, with Mozart's Piano Concerto No 24 in C minor, with conductor Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony, in Massachusetts, United States, which was his first major performance since his injury.

"I've performed at the NCPA many times but recording an album there was a first time for me," says the pianist.

"It was raining outside and I was excited. It is a habit since childhood. When it rains, I cannot go anywhere but play the piano at home."

He also recorded the album at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London in August.

"Some of the pieces in Lang Lang's new album are the great music we listened to as children. It's rare and meaningful for an established pianist to play and record such pieces," says Christopher Alder, Grammy-winning producer, who produced the album.

Lang adds that earlier he used to have a busy schedule at about 150 concerts every year.

Now, he has slowed down and does about 75 concerts a year, which allows him to do other things, such as music education.

The 36-year-old, who was born in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, studied the piano from age 5, and says he was inspired to take up music after watching the Tom and Jerry film The Cat Concerto, which features Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 2.

Lang, who is a role model for millions of young Chinese learning classical music, launched his Shenzhen-based music school, Lang Lang Music World, in 2011. In 2008, he founded Lang Lang International Music Foundation to educate, inspire and motivate music lovers and performers.

"I enjoy talking with students and sharing music with them. They also inspire me," he says.

He will launch his tour of Spain and Australia, as well as play with international orchestras, including a concert with Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Kirill Petrenko on April 21. He will record an album of the Goldberg Variations next year.

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