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Lang Lang and Rachmaninoff's Loveable First Piano Concerto

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 has never been as celebrated as his Second and Third, but as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, it has all the things we love about Rachmaninoff.

Radio Script:

Lang Lang: I play Rach Three, Rach Two, Paganini Variations, and I thought, I need to play Rach One...

Susan Lewis: Rachmaninoff was in his teens when he wrote his First Piano Concerto in 1891; he premiered the first movement in 1892, but seldom performed the work for nearly 25 years. When he revised it in 1917, he was already famous for his Second and Third concertos, which are still better known today.

Lang Lang: I play Rach Three, Rach Two, and Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations...

SL: Pianist Lang Lang.

LL: And I thought, I need to play Rach One. 

SL: And so Lang Lang—who'd been playing Rachmaninoff for years, since his hands were big enough for those chords—more recently turned to the First Piano Concerto.

LL: This piece is so beautiful!

SL: Dramatic, and dream...

LL: ...Dreamy! At the same time. It’s a double D! [Laughing] Rachmaninoff is all about emotions, about this most passionate heart... And his music can be also kind of sad, in a way. But at the end of the day, his music has such a warmth to musicians’ heart and the audience’s spirit. He has this very strong connection to people.

SL: Rachmaninoff recorded the 1917 version of his first piano concerto in 1941 with Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Lang Lang talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about his delight in playing Rachmaninoff's First Piano Concerto, a work he only recently began performing.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.