[Cover photo credit to James McMillan]

Richard Clayderman has been a performing pianist for nearly 60 years during which time he’s influenced multiple generations of audiences world-wide to find the beauty and the potential of the piano to interpret and present popular music. A major through-line in his voluminous recording output, which includes at least 1,400 songs, has always been love songs of every genre and stripe. In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, Clayderman’s new double album, Forever Love, was released in three EPs, and now the full album goes wide this week on February 25th, 2022 via BMG. The album consists of equal parts new recordings, which Clayderman made during the pandemic period, and a selection of his existing love songs over the years.

Richard Clayderman is very much aware of his audiences and fans and stays active on social media, often releasing new bits of material and glimpses inside his recording process. For Valentine’s Day, he released a performance video of “Perfect Symphony” featured on the album, which you can see below. While the pandemic took Clayderman away from live performance for a time, recording Forever Love was the result, and now that he’s set to return to global touring in March, he’ll be bringing those songs directly to audiences once more. Richard Clayderman was kind enough to do a Q&A with us from his home in France about the development of Forever Love.

Hannah Means-Shannon: The idea of love songs can be very wide-ranging, though people tend to think mainly of songs that say “I love you” as a clear message. I see the songs on the album are more encompassing of different approaches to love, like “Viva La Vida” and “What a Wonderful World”. How did you make this decision?

Richard Clayderman: Love is a big concept as it can mean the love of a man for a woman or the love of a father for his child, but also the love of a woman for her little dog. In any case, it means that someone feels many positive emotions toward someone else. All of the pieces of music featured in this double album evoke many emotions; emotions created by the composer, emotions created by the interpreter, and emotions created by the listeners. We all need love because we all need to feel wanted and alive.

HMS: Was it also important to you to cover different time periods in music to show how love songs have evolved and followed different popular trends?

RC: Since man is on the planet, love has existed. And I think that all of the titles on this double album are written – regardless of the period they were composed in — to communicate emotions to the listeners.

HMS: Was track order and sequence important to you for this collection?

RC: I am not good at selecting the track order because I’m too connected with what I have been doing as an interpreter. I prefer someone else at my record company to do this job, and when I listen to this album, I am satisfied with it, and I think that they did a good job!

HMS: Please give us some thoughts on the original compositions on the collection by Paul de Senneville. What appealed to you about them most?

RC: Well… I think that Paul de Senneville is very inspired. He works hard to reach that moment where he is satisfied with the melody that he has created. He is a man who has strong emotions, and because of this, he can infuse his compositions with these emotions. My job is to collect the musical notes that he has written and play them with my fingers on the piano in a way that he and I are happy with.

HMS: I understand that you had a time of reflection at home due to the cancellation of live dates and this led you to rediscover some of your favorite songs from your career. Was it hard to pick which songs to do and leave others out?

RC: This new release consists of two albums. The first album features 12 new studio recordings that I have recorded during the second half of 2021. Instead of feeling under pressure regarding time, this impossibility of doing my stage performances has given me full scope to do my studio recordings without any stress. The second album is a collection of music pieces that I have recorded over the past 40 years. My record company has listened to hundreds of my recordings to select what they believed to be the most iconic love themes during this period. This proves that love themes are eternal.

HMS: The album will be released in parts digitally as three EPs which will enable people to listen to this music throughout the winter period leading up to Valentine’s Day and beyond. What do you hope this will do for audiences?

RC: The way that people listen to music has changed a lot lately. Many people no longer listen to the radio or watch TV. Instead, they use their smartphone or tablet. And platforms like YouTube and Spotify have created new types of media and different ways of experiencing music, but love and the emotions that it stimulates remain vivid. Valentine’s Day remains unique and a moment fully devoted to love, and my music is fully devoted to love.

HMS: I see you have some tour dates coming up if all goes well in the world, including a Cairo concert in March. Will you be playing any of these songs from the collection? How are you choosing your performance music coming up?

RC: In my upcoming concerts, I will for sure play a good proportion of the titles featured on this double album. Just so you know, during my concerts, I try to have my audience enter into a world of peace, tranquility, and elegance.

HMS: Obviously, with the large amount of work you’ve released over the years, you hope to impact the lives of audiences. Do you also hope that your work will popularize the piano as an instrument and encourage people to learn to play it?

RC: The Chinese promoter who takes care of my concerts in China told me that he estimates that the number of pianists in China is more or less 50 million. He also said that since I became popular in that country, piano sales have skyrocketed.

Without being arrogant, I think that there is no doubt that many people begin to wish to study piano while listening to my work.

HMS: I noticed that you released a Christmas medley working with both electric and acoustic sounds. Do you enjoy working with both equally?

RC: My arrangers and I prefer dealing with samples; however, I much prefer the sound of an acoustic piano and strings.

HMS: Can you tell us a little about the people who did the arrangements on the album?

RC: All of the titles featured on the first album were arranged by Marc Minier who is extremely talented and a pleasure to work with.