September 01, 1997 12:00 PM

>Billy Joel


Billy Joel says his Greatest Hits Vol. III, which hit stores Aug. 19, will likely be his last hurrah as a pop recording artist. The man who gave us “Uptown Girl” and “The River of Dreams” is, at 48, following in the footsteps of idol George Gershwin as he makes the leap from pop music to classical works—just as soon as he takes one last mega-tour with Elton John in early ’98.

Why are you giving up rock?

I’ve been bored writing for Billy Joel. He’s okay, but I don’t want that to limit the things that I write.

What prompted you to take up classical composing?

I really always wanted to be a composer, and I got sidetracked when I became a rock star. Composing is really my first love.

How do you envision presenting this to the public?

We’ve gotten some inquiries from major orchestras, so I’m assuming that’s the way it would be presented and recorded. It’s an expensive and complicated proposition.

Will you be performing these new compositions yourself?

The orchestral stuff will be performed without a piano. Some of the piano pieces are actually beyond my expertise. I can write them, but I can’t necessarily play them well. They need to be played by a classical pianist.

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