For Lang Lang, Disney songs are good for classical music

Disney’s company dominance could be fairly disenchanting — however for a lot of, traditional tunes like “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Beauty and the Beast” nonetheless maintain magic inside them. In Shenyang, China, within the Nineteen Eighties, Lang Lang was one of many numerous who fell beneath Uncle Walt’s spell.

Rising up, Lang remembers watching “Snow White” and “Pinocchio” and plunking out the melodies on the piano at household live shows. “Not only do we have the classical music repertoire, but we also [have] a lot of animation repertoire,” he says.

The pianist has spent the final 4 years commissioning new preparations of the Disney songbook, turning the corporate’s huge library of present tunes — from the Thirties operetta of “Snow White” to the fashionable salsa of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” — for his new album. “The Disney Book” additionally options particular friends like Miloš, Guo Gan and Jon Batiste.

On Thursday he’ll carry out the vast majority of the album — with completely different friends — on the Hollywood Bowl.

Sitting at a piano on a Zoom name, Lang breaks into bars of previous reminiscences — “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” — and recollects the jazz he heard in previous Mickey Mouse shorts and the emotional whammy of seeing “The Lion King” when he was an adolescent. Although the definition of a “Disney song” is a large umbrella, he believes there’s a through-line.

The pianist Lang Lang.

(Simon Webb)

“The secret weapon for Disney music, in the past, was Walt Disney himself,” says Lang, who bought an opportunity to stroll via Disney’s previous workplace and see photographs of him discussing “Fantasia” with conductor Leopold Stokowski. “Walt Disney himself gave very clear ideas on what kind of style Disney music should have, which is kind of a warm melody, with themes people can remember — people will sing along very well — and which has a great kind of harmonic, classic bass.”

Rather a lot modified after the founder’s loss of life in 1966, after all, and now “Disney song” can imply something from Elton John to Lin-Manuel Miranda to Kristen Anderson-Lopez. “But you feel there’s a connection,” Lang says, “you feel this emotion, you feel this warmth, you feel these melodic waves into the music. And I think that was Walt Disney’s theory.”

However what’s one among our premier classical virtuosos doing with these youngsters’s singalongs? Has Disney’s relentless cultural occupation now consumed the live performance corridor — and never simply the downtown corridor named after Walt — too?

One motive Lang turned to the Disney repertoire: He lately turned a father. His spouse, Gina Alice, sings “When You Wish Upon a Star” on the brand new album as a tribute to their 1-year-old son and, he says, “to newborn babies around the globe.”

Each time his basis visits elementary colleges, youngsters at all times ask him to play Disney songs — “Frozen”! “Aladdin”! “Coco”! “They always request,” he says. “So this is another reason why we’re doing it. I think it’s something that’s good for us — for the classical music world, but also good for the kids. When they learn something purely instrumental, they want to hear something which connects to their life. We’d like to make sure that the kids will not be afraid of classical music.”

Initially, Lang wished to do a broader animation album past Disney songs. In spite of everything, it was a “Tom and Jerry” quick that launched him to classical music and began him on his path, and he wished to honor the lengthy custom of exposing younger ears to the canon via numerous cartoons. However he realized he wanted a extra targeted theme, and Disney supplied fairly a deep properly.

He did nonetheless smuggle a tribute to Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” from that well-known quick, “The Cat Concerto,” into the quicksilver pianism of the album’s “Mary Poppins Fantasy.”

Lang and his arrangers — together with Stephen Hough, Natalie Tenenbaum and Randy Kerber — snuck the virtuosity and elegance of a number of classical greats into these new renditions. “The Rainbow Connection” sounds slightly like Schumann. “Baby Mine” from “Dumbo” is Debussy-esque — “French impressionist ideas of putting kids to sleep,” he says. And “Let It Go” seems like a Liszt piano concerto, with “a lot of octaves and a lot of technical turns.”

In spite of everything, Lang needs savvy adults and classical followers to benefit from the album as properly: “The interpretation, it will be very different. I hope you will not feel this is like spa therapy.”

‘Lang Lang Performs Disney’

The place: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15