Genius Pianist -- Once in Lifetime
"I'm touched by Lang Lang's music. There's something special about it. It has a quality unique only to Chinese artists, and few at that…Lang is very amazing; his ability is beyond belief. Though he seldom takes part in competitions, he doesn't need to any more… such genius appears only once in a lifetime in China."
The above are the words of Fu Cong, a piano master in China. The famous Chinese conductor Tan Dun also said that he was sure that Lang was one of the contemporary outstanding pianists. Lang was also picked as one of 20 youth who would change the world by the American magazine Teen People.
Such comments were made after Lang showed his piano talents to the world. In July 2002 when the Schleswig-Holstein Festival was held, he won the inaugural Leonard Bernstein Award, which was established for professional artists. This proves that both domestic and overseas musical circles recognize Lang's gift and achievements in piano.
Lang's musical life and enlightenment started at an early age. He began learning music when he was three, and only a year later, received instruction from Zhu Yafen, a professor in the Shenyang Conservatory of Music. Later he was admitted by the Central Conservatory of Music and taught by Professor Zhao Pingguo. Later still, Ying Chengzong, a famous pianist in China, discovered Lang's intelligence in piano and offered to teach him for free.
In 1996, 14-year-old Lang was admitted into the Curtis Institute of Music in the United States and was taught by Gary Graffman, a well-known master pianist and the head of the college. In such a way, a series of doors leading to the palace of music opened to Lang one after another.
There is a legend to how Lang's professional performance began. In August 1999 when the Ravinia Festival was held, Lang was chosen to fill in for the famous musician Andre Watts, who was unable at that time to play the piano onstage. Lang conquered the audience and his performance made a dramatic splash. Since then, Lang has become more and more popular in the musical world, and his concerts have ranked among the top of European and American box offices.
Even US President George W. Bush and his father once listened to him. According to Phoenix Satellite Television, before Lang started his performance, President Bush said emotionally that his performance was enchanting. The president added that the Chinese Culture Festival had made a positive contribution to Sino-American cultural exchanges.
Lang's achievements in art are of ice-breaking historical significance to both international and Chinese piano circles. To the former, he has proved that Chinese musicians can also enter the mainstream of classical music after receiving correct, complete, and systematic training in music. And for the latter, he represents another world-class Chinese classic musician after Chinese violoncellist Wang Jian.
A Perfect Combination of Classicism and Modernism
It's accepted by many that classical music is too abstract to meet the taste of modern people. However, Lang doesn't agree. He insists that classical music, having been tested by time, has a long-lasting life and unique charm. He thinks it can enlighten people's minds with its musical notes, and can even influence those unschooled in music.
Classical music works, especially concertos, are difficult to interpret. So once a musician can grasp its technique, he or she can show all kinds of human emotions by music, and thus can more easily communicate with the audience. Lang is such a musician. And as the piano is one of the most popular elegant instruments in the world, Lang uses it to interpret classical music with his passion and talents and to further its development to spread classical music.
Based on the above ambitions, Lang has put himself in music with heart and soul. Every time on the stage, he is so fully immersed in playing wonderful music with vivid expression that he feels right at home even under the spotlight.
Lang also seeks the essence of music from world outside of music. He is always glad to exchange his opinions with others on art and music. Some times he goes to the cinema with his friends, as talking about films with them brings him inspiration. Then he will digest such inspiration and put it into his performance. In his spare time, he prefers to read to improve his appreciation in music.
Pursuing music and being nurtured by music, Lang is very poetic. At the same time, he is also very modern, having an optimistic streak and liking fashion, sports, and so on. He himself is the perfect combination of classicism and modernism. He is happy to get close to the audience's heart in an affectionate style rather than stay at an aloof distance. Hence, whether in East or West, Lang has a lot of fans who surround him wherever he goes.
He is so popular that he was appointed as UNICEF's (United Nations Children's Fund's) Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations, becoming the third Chinese receiving such honor after Cheng Long and Li Ming. He has also been entitled as a World Peace Ambassador. As well, he was appointed as Mr. Deutsche Grammophon of 2004 in Germany, and was also listed as one of the 33 most outstanding and wisest figures of 2005 by the world famous magazine Esquire.
Yet ever with the array of accolades and praise, Lang has never forgotten his motherland. He passed up the chance to get American nationality, and what's more, has engaged himself in promoting and spreading Chinese culture. In all his concerts, the Chinese piano music pieces The Yellow River and My Motherland are among his repertoire.
Yet, though Lang is obsessed by classical music, he doesn't shun the commercialism of his music. In fact, his commercialized rout in music is quite mature and normal. Each year, he takes part in nearly 200 concerts, with each being a box office success.
He once took part in a music show held by NBC (National Broadcasting Company) in Los Angles. The show was a purely Hollywood-style one, replete with pop music -- till Lang appeared. But whiule open to commercial aspects in music, Lang is no money grabber. After that, many film companies in Hollywood wanted to cooperate with him. However, Lang rejected them, as he rejects without hesitation any music show aiming solely at commercial interests, lest classical music be desecrated.
Lang Lang, no more than 24, is a soon-to-be piano master, a simple and approachable star, a medium for Sino-foreign cultural exchanges, and a model of commercial art.
Warm Love from Lang Lang's Family
Lang's success is closely related to the support and sacrifice of his family. After discovering Lang's gift in music, Lang Quoren, his father, decided to spare no efforts to foster Lang Lang's ability.
To provide Lang Lang with better musical education, Lang Quoren quit from his steady job and left his wife to come to Beijing with Lang Lang. They lived in a shabby room for five years. In searching for the most suitable teacher for Lang Lang, Lang Quoren annoyed quite a few people because of his upright temper. And to send Lang Lang to take part in an overseas competition, Lang Quoren borrowed much money from others and finally got the visa. To his pleasure, Lang Lang became one of the winners of the competition.
Whenever Lang studies abroad or take recital tours around the world, his father always accompanies him In times of trouble, father and son joins like close friends to overcome difficulties. Lang Quoren said he would "retire" at 60.
Lang Lang is an obedient son. He has bought several apartments for his parents and squeezes time to be with his parents as much as possible.
Lang's warmest memory is of eating dumplings and looking through the family albums with his family. Whenever he remembers this, at that moment, he is a boy rather than a pianist.
A Piano Teach Standing on the Platform
Lang has established a master class to improve the skill of students who play the piano. His class is so popular that often there is not enough room, forcing some students to stand in the aisles or even the hallway. Lang carefully listens to his students playing, patiently instructs them, sincerely encourages them, and compliments them. Lang likes this interactive communication very much. He humorously named the master class as a chat meeting.
To his pride and joy, Lang's platform extended to his Alma Mater. In 2005, the Central Conservatory of Music employed Lang as a visiting professor. Lang couldn't help kissing the employment certificate. He said that he often dreamed of being a visiting professor of his Alma Mater, adding the certificate was his highest honor.
Although this dream of Lang came true, he continues to surpass himself by pursuing new dreams. At the same time, he helps pianist hopefuls to realize their own dreams.
The Wonderful Future
As for Lang, while last year was fruitful, this year is even more promising. On Janaury17, Lang Lang will hold a solo piano concert in the People's Great Hall in Beijing.
Lang chose the People's Great Hall for two reasons, according to a person responsible for the solo. One is that the People's Great Hall has special meaning, as Lang has always dreamed of holding a concert in the largest music hall in China. The other is that Lang's success depends on his capacity and charm. Therefore what he brings audiences is not only enchanting music but also the spirit of effort and the firm pursuit of dreams. With this, the People's Great Hall is large enough for more Chinese to enter Lang Lang's music and his soul.
The sponsor disclosed that for the concert, a set of China's top acoustics equipment, which is suited for a large-scale performance, would be delivered from Shanghai to solve the problem of acoustics in the People's Great Hall. At the same time, sound mixers had communicated with their American counterparts to overcome the lasting problem of difficult tuning in the hall.
Lang will also play a piano piece at the spring festival gala held by Central China Television later this month.
As an extra surprise, on June 8, Lang will play a piano solo at the opening ceremony of the World Cup Football Finals, which will be broadcast live to a global audience of three billion.
We look forward to more pleasant surprise presented by Lang Lang.
Name: Lang Lang
Birthplace: Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China
1985 With father's support, studied to play the piano at the age of three.
1986 Studied professional piano under professor Zhu Yafen when aged four.
1996 Entered the Curtis Institute of Music and was a student of Gary Graffman, the head of the college and a master of piano.
1993 Placed first in the 4th German International Youth Piano Competition and received the Outstanding Achievement Art Prize.
1995 Placed first in the 2nd Tchaikovsky International Youth Musician Competition.
2002 Received the first art golden modal released by the Steinway & Sons Company, the world's top piano producer in the world, at its 150th Anniversary Ceremony and was entitled as a Steinway & Sons Artist.
2002 Was the only winner to receive the Leonard Bernstein Award.
2000 Lang Lang's Solo
2001 Lang Lang·Rachmaninov: No. 3 Piano Concerto
2002 Lang Lang·Tchaikovsky: No. 1 Piano Concerto
2005 Lang Lang·Rachmaninov: No. 2 Piano Concerto
(chinaculture February 5, 2006)