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David Lanz

When David Lanz recorded Cristofori’s Dream in 1988, he had a gut feeling that his newest album might be received by his growing legion of fans as his most realized work to date. Although the pianist and composer had released several albums previously, this one just felt special.

Lanz was right: Music lovers all over the world readily embraced Cristofori’s Dream—in fact, it became a sensation, topping Billboard magazine’s first Adult Alternative/New Age chart and remaining there for a remarkable 27 weeks, ultimately becoming a bona fide cornerstone of its genre.

Now, nearly 25 years later, David Lanz is revisiting his masterpiece with Cristofori’s Dream…Re-Envisioned (release date October 9, 2012), a newly recorded solo piano interpretation of the half dozen original compositions, including the now-classic title track, and sole cover—Lanz’s imaginative and soulful reimagining of Procol Harum’s brilliant “A Whiter Shade of Pale”—that comprised the work that rewrote the book on the New Age movement.

Why revisit such a legendary work? For Lanz, the opportunity to go back to the source material and present it in a stripped-down format was too tempting a proposition to ignore. “It’s the biggest record that I ever had so wanted to beat the drum a little bit,” he says. “When I went back and started playing this music, these particular songs held up for me. Hopefully I’ve gotten a little more musical since the album was made, and the material on that record did come from my golden era as a young composer and recording artist. Plus, it was kind of fun for me to go back in.”

At the heart of Cristofori’s Dream is the title track, which pays homage to Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco (May 4, 1655-January 27, 1731), the Italian craftsman of musical instruments who is acknowledged to have invented the piano. Lanz’s inspiration, he writes in the detailed, illuminating liner notes for Cristofori’s Dream Re-Envisioned, “was found in Judith Oringer’s book, Passion for the Piano… You could have knocked me over with a feather! There I stood in the middle of my kitchen, mouth agape, a thirty-something-year-old pianist who had played the piano most of his life, but had never once stopped to consider that the piano had an inventor. Hello!”

Hello indeed. Lanz set about writing what would become his best-known work, and although, he now says, he didn’t realize it at the time, it eventually came to him that “I was tapping into history and tapping into a larger, universal thought form. That informed the music. The piano is such an amazing instrument and its influence is so widespread, so it wasn’t just a guy playing the piano with his own little song. I was writing music for the man who actually invented the piano.”

He adds, “I have been performing the title track along with ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ in concert since the original album was released.” But regarding his new recording Lanz says, “I started by learning the other material the way it had been recorded originally, and in the process of playing and improvising I allowed myself to drift off the grid enough to make these songs a little more interesting for me and hopefully for the listener too. It wasn’t that hard because by the time I put that record out I’d solidified my writing style, even though a lot of the things I’ve written since then are a lot more complex.”

Recently featured on the popular television program America’s Got Talent, “The song ‘Cristofori’s Dream’ has got a life of its own,” says Lanz. “Everywhere I go, people tell me they’ve come back to the piano after they’ve heard that song. It has its own magic, which is nice because I’ve got hundreds of songs and only a few that seem to have that kind of magic dust on them.”

Along with the album’s other Lanz-penned tunes—“Spiral Dance,” “Green Into Gold,” “Wings to Altair,” “Summer’s Child” and “Free Fall”—the pianist included on Cristofori’s Dream his take on the 1967 Summer of Love smash “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Now recognized as the most-played song on radio of all time in the U.K., the song has always been a personal favorite of Lanz’s. For Cristofori’s Dream…Re-Envisioned, he’s boiled its haunting and familiar melody down to its essence, maintaining the vision he brought to his original recording (which included a guest appearance by original Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher) while recasting it in a new light that suits the mood of the album.

As for the other six originals that comprised the 1988 recording, Lanz was excited to dig back in to those as well. “‘Cristofori’s Dream’ and ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ I play at pretty much every show,” says Lanz. “But the other material I hadn’t played that often, so it felt good to go back and re-learn my own songs. And now I am playing the songs in concert, and it’s great.”

Cristofori’s Dream…Re-Envisioned also features two bonus tracks, a live orchestral version of the title track, recorded in Seattle, and “Seoul Improvisation,” an impromptu piano creation that Lanz performed while on tour in Korea two years ago. The album comes on the heels of Liverpool: Re-Imagining the Beatles and Here Comes the Sun, both of which focused on Lanz’s love for the music of the Beatles. Next up, in time for the holidays, will be Joy Noel, a Christmas collection featuring both new, original Lanz compositions and some chestnuts and lesser-known songs. Selected tour dates in support of Cristofori’s Dream…Re-Envisioned are also planned. Watch for details as they emerge.

  • David Lanz “Re-Envisions” his 1988 classic Cristofori’s Dream Via Solo Piano
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