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Lang Lang's new Bach: Goldberg Variations makes KCRW: Los Angeles - Rhythm Planet 'playlist picks'

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Tom Schnabel's KCRW: Los Angeles - Rhythm Planet playlist picks this week cover a range of new releases and enduring classics that he has returned to repeatedly for emotional and spiritual sustenance. We start with superstar pianist Lang Lang. If you're a fan of Bach's Goldberg Variations and love Glenn Gould's iconic versions-either the 1955 or 1981 sessions-then I recommend checking out Lang Lang's new set. I chose one of the most uncannily difficult variations here. Listening will make you wonder how his hands and fingers can move so quickly!

"This is a very important dream-come-true moment", says Lang Lang. The superstar pianist, who waited 20 years before playing Johann Sebastian Bach's monumental composition in public, has finally achieved his goal of recording the Goldberg Variations. The result of two decades of deep study and personal reflection, his vision of Bach's Aria and 30 Variations is out now on Deutsche Grammophon. 

Lang Lang marked the global release of the new album with a special introduction from the historic Temple (東景緣, Dongjingyuan) in Beijing – site of the old imperial printing house and a former Buddhist shrine, meticulously renovated in recent years to preserve its multi-layered history. The pianist performed extracts from the Goldberg Variations and talk about the intense personal connection he feels to Bach's music, as well as answering questions from fans. 

Also available from today is a super deluxe edition featuring not only Lang Lang's studio recording but a performance captured live in concert at Leipzig's St. Thomas Church, where the composer worked and is buried. This coupling of studio and live recordings, a world first for the "Goldbergs", offers fascinating insights into the art of interpretation. Lang Lang's performances intensify the work's breath-taking blend of contrapuntal complexity, diverse musical styles and life-affirming spontaneity.