Great Pianists – Lang Lang

05/30/2014 11:23 am

Lang-Lang

Great Pianists

I must admit that there was a time when I wasn’t a fan of Lang Lang. Perhaps it was his bravado or maybe it was his desire to appeal to the masses but I have since changed my tune. Lang Lang has become a huge proponent of classical music which is desperately needed. Classical music has not kept up reaching out to newer generations and I am grateful that artists such as Lang Lang have become such vocal spokespersons for this amazing genre of music.

Biography

Lang Lang was born in Shenyang, Liaoning, China. At the age of two, Lang watched the Tom and Jerry episode The Cat Concerto which features the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt. According to Lang, this first contact with Western music is what motivated him to learn piano. He began piano lessons with Professor Zhu Ya-Fen at age three. At the age of five, he won first place at the Shenyang Piano Competition and performed his first public recital.

When Lang Lang was nine years old, he auditioned for Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, and, having difficulties with his lessons, was expelled from his piano tutor’s studio for “lack of talent”.

Lang Lang was later admitted into the conservatory where he studied under Professor Zhao Ping-Guo. In 1993, he won the Xing Hai Cup Piano Competition in Beijing and, in 1994, was awarded first prize for outstanding artistic performance at the fourth International Competition for Young Pianists in Ettlingen, Germany. In 1995, at 13 years of age, he played the Op. 10 and Op. 25 études by Chopin at the Beijing Concert Hall and, in the same year, won first place at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Japan, playing Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert broadcast by NHK Television. When 14, he was a featured soloist at the China National Symphony’s inaugural concert, which was broadcast by China Central Television and attended by President Jiang Zemin. The following year, he began studies with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Performance Style

Lang Lang’s performance style was controversial when he stormed into the classical music scene in 1999. Since that time, Pianist Earl Wild called him “the J. Lo of the piano.” Others have described him as immature, but admitted that his ability to “conquer crowds with youthful bravado” is phenomenal among classical musicians. His maturity in subsequent years was reported by The New Yorker: “The ebullient Lang Lang is maturing as an artist.” In April 2009, when Time Magazine included Lang Lang in its list of the 100 most influential people, Herbie Hancock described his playing as “so sensitive and so deeply human”, commenting: “You hear him play, and he never ceases to touch your heart.”

Awards & Outreach

Lang Lang has received many awards and made many television appearances. His DG recording of Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4 with Christoph Eschenbach was nominated for Grammy Award during the year of its release.

He appeared in Time magazine’s 2009 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and in Gramophone magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2008, the Recording Academy named him their Cultural Ambassador to China. More recently, Lang Lang has been chosen as an official worldwide ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Lang Lang was appointed by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as an International Goodwill Ambassador in 2004. The Chinese government selected him as a vice-president of the All-China Youth Federation.

The Financial Times reported that Lang Lang is “evangelical in his efforts to spread the popularity of classical music.” In October 2008, he launched the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in New York with the support of the Grammys and UNICEF. In May 2009, Lang Lang and his three chosen scholars from the foundation – Charlie Liu, Anna Larsen, and Derek Wang, aged between eight and 10 years old – performed together on The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

In June 2011, Lang Lang was engaged by Telefónica to make appearances concerning culture, technology, education and social commitment.

On 22 July 2012, Lang carried the London 2012 Olympic torch through Hornchurch on its Redbridge to Bexley leg. On 24 August 2012, he was awarded the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his engagement in the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.

On October 28, 2013, Lang Lang was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace — a role he says is more important than his music because it can help improve the lives of children around the world through education.

His Sony ‘Chopin Album’ received the 2013 Echo Klassik Award.

What do you think of his playing?

Some Performances

1 Comment

  • Meredith Willis

    Thank you for sharing. I enjoy learning about musicians and the history of the artist.
    Chopin is certain a favorite.