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Lang Lang (pianist)

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Lang (郎).
File:Lang Lang - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010 Davos cropped.jpg
Lang Lang after a performance at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, 2010

Lang Lang (Chinese: 郎朗; pinyin: Láng Lǎng; born 14 June 1982) is a Chinese concert pianist who has performed with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and his native China.

Early life

Lang Lang was born in Shenyang, Liaoning, China. His father Lang Guoren (郎国任), is a descendant of the Manchu Niohuru (鈕祜祿) family, which brought forth a long line of Qing Empresses. The elder Lang is also a musician, who plays the traditional Chinese stringed instrument erhu.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4]

When Lang Lang was nine years old, he intended to audition 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".[5] Another music teacher at his state school noticed Lang Lang's sadness, and decided to comfort him by playing a record of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330; she asked him to play along with the second movement. This reminded Lang Lang of his love of the instrument. "Playing the K. 330 brought me hope again," he recalled.[5]

Lang Lang was later admitted into the conservatory where he studied under Professor Zhao Ping-Guo.[6] 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.[4] 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,[4] playing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert broadcast by NHK Television.[7] 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.[8]

Performing and recording career

File:Katherine McPhee.jpg
Lang Lang and singer Katharine McPhee perform at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2009

Lang Lang has given recitals and concerts in many major cities and was the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and some top American orchestras.[9] A Chicago Tribune music critic called him "the biggest, most exciting young keyboard talent I have encountered in many a year of attending piano recitals".[10] Lang has been praised by musicians and critics around the world – the conductor Jahja Ling remarked, "Lang Lang is special because of his total mastery of the piano... He has the flair and great communicative power."[11] National Public Radio's Morning Edition remarked that "Lang Lang has conquered the classical world with dazzling technique and charisma."[12] It is often noted that Lang successfully straddles two worlds – classical prodigy and rock-like "superstar", a phenomenon summed up by The Times journalist Emma Pomfret, who wrote, "I can think of no other classical artist who has achieved Lang Lang's broad appeal without dumbing down."[13]

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." [14] Others have described him as immature, but admitted that his ability to "conquer crowds with youthful bravado" is phenomenal among classical musicians.[15] His maturity in subsequent years was reported by The New Yorker: "The ebullient Lang Lang is maturing as an artist."[15] 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."[16]

In 2001, after a sold-out Carnegie Hall debut with Yuri Temirkanov, he travelled to Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra on a tour celebrating its 100th anniversary, during which he performed to an audience of 8,000 at the Great Hall of the People.[17] The same year, he made an acclaimed BBC Proms debut, prompting a music critic of the British newspaper The Times to write, "Lang Lang took a sold-out Royal Albert Hall by storm... This could well be history in the making".[17] In 2003, he returned to the BBC Proms for the First Night concert with Leonard Slatkin. After his recital debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berliner Zeitung wrote: "Lang Lang is a superb musical performer whose artistic touch is always in service of the music".[18]

Lang Lang was the featured soloist on the Golden Globe winning score of The Painted Veil and can be heard on the soundtrack of The Banquet.[19] He has recorded for the Deutsche Grammophon and Telarc labels.. His album of the first and fourth Beethoven piano concertos with the Orchestre de Paris and Christoph Eschenbach debuted at No. 1 on the Traditional Classical Billboard Chart.[20] In 2008, he was the pianist on Mike Oldfield's 2008 album Music of the Spheres.[21] In 2010, he signed with Sony for a reported $3 million.[22]

In December 2008, Lang Lang partnered with Google and YouTube in the project YouTube Symphony Orchestra.[23]

Lang Lang has also recorded piano works for the video game Gran Turismo 5's soundtrack, mostly under the "Classical" subgenre.[24] This included versions of Danny Boy, Beethoven's 8th Piano Sonata, and one of the game's intro pieces, the third movement from Prokofiev's 7th Piano Sonata.

Finally, he has performed for numerous international dignitaries including the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, President Hu Jintao of China, President Horst Köhler of Germany, Prince Charles, as well as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Polish President Lech Kaczynski.[25]

White House state dinner

At the White House state dinner in honour of President of China Hu Jintao on 19 January 2011, one of the tunes Lang played was the theme song to the movie Battle on Shangganling Mountain called My Motherland, an anti-American film on the Korean War. The song's lyrics include the line "We deal with wolves with guns", which in the film referred indirectly to the United States.[26][27] Although the tune is popular and has lost much of its political and historical significance in China,[28] the performance was said to be interpreted by some as insulting the USA.[29]

In response to the controversy Lang Lang denied that he had intended to insult the United States.[30] He later released a statement stating that he "selected this song because it has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. It was selected for no other reason but for the beauty of its melody."[30] White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor also responded by saying My Motherland is "widely known and popular in China for its melody. Lang Lang played the song without lyrics or reference to any political theme ....Any suggestion that this was an insult to the United States is just flat wrong."[31]

Select appearances

File:Chopin Year in Poland - Lang Lang 01.jpg
Lang at the international Chopin Year 2010

Lang Lang has performed at various open-air venues, including Central Park New York, Hollywood Bowl Los Angeles, the Ravinia Festival Chicago, Theaterplatz in Dresden and Derby Park Hamburg.[32][33]

In July 2007, he played at a concert from the Teatro del Silenzio, Lajatico, Italy, hosted by Andrea Bocelli. He performed "Io ci sarò" with Bocelli, and Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody". The performance is available on a DVD entitled Vivere Live in Tuscany.[34]

In December 2007, Lang Lang performed at the Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm.[33] Collaborating with Seiji Ozawa, he appeared at the New Year's Eve gala opening for the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.[19] He also participated in the opening concert at Munich's Olympic Stadium with Mariss Jansons, marking the commencement of the 2006 FIFA World Cup,[35] and, in a celebratory concert held the night before the last match of the 2008 Euro Cup finals, Lang Lang played with the Vienna Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta in front of Schönbrunn Palace.[36]

In 2008, an audience estimated at up to a billion people saw Lang Lang's performance in Beijing's opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics where he was promoted as a symbol of the youth and future of China.[37] During these games, he was also featured on the German TV network ZDF and made several appearances on NBC's The Today Show Summer Olympics broadcasts. In the opening ceremony he performed a melody from the Yellow River Cantata with seven-year-old Li Muzi.[38] Lang Lang also collaborated with a German band Schiller to record "Time for Dreams", used to promote some coverage of the 2008 Olympics broadcast in Germany.

In February 2008, Lang Lang and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock performed together at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. The two were again brought in by United Airlines for the reintroduction of their "It's Time to Fly" advertising campaign with a series of new animated commercials aired during the 2008 Summer Olympics.[39] In April 2008, he premiered Tan Dun's First Piano Concerto, subtitled "The Fire".[40] Hancock and Lang Lang continued to collaborate with a world tour in summer 2009. Lang played at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for US President Barack Obama and at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo the next day.[41]

Lang Lang has made numerous TV appearances including The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, CBS Early Show and 60 Minutes. He has featured in publications including The New Yorker, Esquire, Vogue (Germany), The Times, Financial Times, GQ, Die Welt, Reader's Digest and People.[42] Lang Lang holds the title of the first Ambassador of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.[43]

In 2009, he performed at Carnegie Hall accompanied by Marc Yu, an 11-year-old pianist and musical child prodigy from Pasadena, California, who made his Carnegie Hall debut at the event.[44]

Lang Lang was featured in the award-winning German-Austrian documentary Pianomania,[45] which was directed by Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis. The film premiered theatrically in North America, Asia and throughout Europe, and is a part of the Goethe-Institut catalogue.[46]

In 2010, he was featured at the Carnegie Hall's China Festival and performed with the New York Philharmonic on New Year's Eve at Avery Fisher Hall.[47][48]

In 2011, Lang Lang opened the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall performing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He played Liszt's 1st Piano Concerto and Chopin’s Grande Polonaise Brillante.[49]

In June 2012, he played Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 and Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace.[50] In 2012 Lang Lang gave a masterclass to a select few pianists at the Royal College of Music featuring Lara Ömeroğlu and Martin James Bartlett.

In January 2014, Lang Lang collaborated with heavy metal band Metallica at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, performing their iconic 1988 anti-war classic "One".

On Thursday 3 July 2014, Lang Lang played at Byblos International Festival in Byblos, Lebanon.[51]

On Friday 19 September, he played with Korean artist PSY for opening ceremony of 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

On Saturday 18 October, Lang Lang performed at the Red Velvet Ball in St. Louis' Powell Symphony Hall.

On Sunday 8 February 2015, Lang Lang played with Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, performing Pharrell's hit song "Happy".

On Thursday 30 April 2015, Lang Lang performed at the Expo 2015 opening concert with Andrea Bocelli at Piazza del Duomo in Milan.


Lang Lang's autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles, published by Random House in eight languages, was released in the summer of 2008. Delacorte Press also released a version of the autobiography specifically for younger readers, entitled Playing with Flying Keys.

Awards and 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,[16] and in Gramophone magazine's Hall of Fame in 2012.[52] In 2008, the Recording Academy named him their Cultural Ambassador to China.[53] 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.[54] The Chinese government selected him as a vice-president of the All-China Youth Federation.[55]

The Financial Times reported that Lang Lang is "evangelical in his efforts to spread the popularity of classical music."[56] In October 2008, he launched the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in New York with the support of the Grammys and UNICEF.[57][58] 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."[59]

In June 2011, Lang Lang was engaged by Telefónica to make appearances concerning culture, technology, education and social commitment.[60]

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.[61]

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.[62]

His Sony 'Chopin Album' received the 2013 Echo Klassik Award.


  1. ^ Na Young Kwon, "An Avante Garde Pianist: A musical genius finds inspiration from the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution", International Examiner. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Lang Lang's Journey to Beethovens". Morning Edition. 8 May 2007. National Public Radio. 
  3. ^ Lang, Lang; David Ritz. "Tom and Gerry". Journey of a Thousand Miles. pp. Spiegel & Graul. 
  4. ^ a b c Stevenson, Joseph. [[[:Template:Allmusic]] Lang Lang biography]. AllMusic
  5. ^ a b "Lang Lang looks back".Billboard; 18 February 2006
  6. ^ "Lang Lang: Chapter 5: First Step Towards the World Stage", Chinese Biographies, Cheng & Tsui. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  7. ^ Lang Lang biography at Telarc
  8. ^ "Lang Lang: Chapter 6: A Miracle in Musical History", Chinese Biographies, Cheng & Tsui. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  9. ^ "Lang Lang". Retrieved 11 September 2011. (archived from the original on 2013-10-19)
  10. ^ Rhein, John von (7 March 2000). "Lang Leaves Audience Elated". Chicago Tribune.  (subscription required)
  11. ^ Valerie Scher, "Around the world in 88 keys: The piano has taken Lang Lang from poverty to superstardom", U-T San Diego, 28 September 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  12. ^ "Lang Lang's Journey to Beethoven", NPR Music, 8 May 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  13. ^ Emma Pomfret, "Lang Lang: China's classical superstar", The Sunday Times, 11 April 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  14. ^ Sharp, Rob (3 June 2011). "Pianist Lang Lang hits out at 'Bang Bang' critics". The Independent (London). Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Ross, Alex. "The wow factor", The New Yorker, 2 April 2007, Vol. 83, Issue 6.
  16. ^ a b Herbie Hancock, "Lang Lang", Time, 30 April 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Lang Lang Biography", Deutsche Grammophon. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  18. ^ Lang Lang, piano. La Jolla Music Society: 2007.
  19. ^ a b "Artist Biography: Lang Lang", San Francisco Symphony. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  20. ^ Lang Lang on Billboard Chart
  21. ^ John Sunier, "MIKE OLDFIELD: Music of the Spheres – Lang Lang, piano/Hayley Westenra, lead vocals/ Sinfonia Sfera Orchestra/Karl Jenkins – Decca", Audiophile Audition. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  22. ^ Lebrecht, Norman. "Sony Pays $3 Mto Win Pianist Lang Lang"
  23. ^ "Lang Lang is returning to Walt Disney Concert Hall to perform". Asia Pacific Arts. 11/01/2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ "An Interview With Pianist Lang Lang", dmx. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  25. ^ "Lang Lang", Cami Music. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  26. ^ West, Philip; Levine, Steven I.; Hiltz, Jackie (1998), America's Wars in Asia: a Cultural Approach to History and Memory, Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, p. 193, ISBN 0-7656-0237-7 
  27. ^ Yan, Cathy (22 January 2011), "Lang Lang's Performance at the White House: Display Of Harmony Or Subtle Dis?", The Wall Street Journal 
  28. ^ Zhang, Hong (2002), The Making of Urban Chinese Images of the United States, 1945–1953, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, p. 161, ISBN 0-313-31001-7 
  29. ^ Ford, Peter (26 January 2011), "How pianist Lang Lang stirred up trouble for US and China at a White House State dinner", The Christian Science Monitor 
  30. ^ a b Richter, Paul (25 January 2011), Chinese-born pianist denies he played song to insult U.S., Los Angeles Times 
  31. ^ Tapper, Jake (24 January 2011), White House Says Chinese Folk Song Played During State Dinner Was Not An Insult; Experts Divided, ABC News 
  32. ^ "Lang Lang", Hollywood Bowl. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  33. ^ a b "Piano Masters: Lang Lang – Sold Out!", Montalco Arts. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  34. ^ "July 5, 2007: Teatro del Silenzio, Lajatico, Italy", Bocelli Deutschland. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  35. ^ "3 Orchester & Stars", Munich Olympia Park. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  36. ^ "Lang Lang at Schönbrunn", C Major Entertainment. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  37. ^ "China's Superstar Pianist Lang Lang to Perform to Over Five Billion Viewers at 2008 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Beijing on Friday, August 8th", PR Newswire quoting Align Entertainment Group as source. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  38. ^ Jie, Chen. Lang delights the crowd with moving performance China Daily
  39. ^ United Airlines' "It's Time to Fly" commercials
  40. ^ Nordlinger, Jay (11 April 2008). "Tan Dun's Musical Mishmash". The Sun. New York. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  41. ^ "Lang Lang Sets Peaceful Mood in Oslo", Confucius Institute. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  42. ^ Remnick, David. "The Olympian", 4 August 2008.
  43. ^ "Lang Lang, the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra Ambassador", YouTube. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  44. ^ "Ten-Year-Old Prodigy Plays Carnegie Hall". CBS News. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  45. ^"OVAL Film"
  46. ^ "Pianomania", First Run Features. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  47. ^ "Ancient Paths, Modern Voices", Carnegie Hall. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  48. ^ "New Year's Eve: Alan Gilbert, Lang Lang, and Tchaikovsky", New York Philharmonic. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  49. ^ Ivan Hewett, "BBC Proms 2011: Last night of the Proms, review", The Telegraph, 10 September 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  50. ^ Mark Savage, "Stars shine on The Queen at Jubilee concert", BBC News, 5 June 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012
  51. ^ "Byblos International Festival"
  52. ^ "Lang Lang (pianist)". Gramophone. Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  53. ^ "The Recording Academy Announces Lang Lang As Grammy Culture Ambassador To China", Global Rhythm, 21 October 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  54. ^ "Lang Lang: Goodwill Ambassador", UNICEF. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  55. ^ "Message from 'EU-China Year of Youth' Ambassador Lang Lang", All-China Youth Federation, 13 March 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  56. ^ Rahul Jacob, "Lunch with the FT: Lang Lang", 11 April 2009. Financial Times. Retrieved 13 September 2011..
  57. ^ Paula Harrington, "Lang Lang launches foundation to support children’s love of music", UNICEF, 20 October 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  58. ^ Lang Lang International Music Foundation. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  59. ^ "The World's Most Talented Kids",, 18 May 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  60. ^ "Telefónica elige como embajador internacional de su marca al artista chino Lang Lang, el mejor pianista del mundo", Telefónica Noticias. Invalid language code. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  61. ^ "Pianist Lang Lang mit Bundesverdienstkreuz geehrt" [Pianist Lang Lang awarded the Federal Cross of Merit]. Die Welt (in German). Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 25 August 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2012. 
  62. ^ "Chinese Pianist Lang Lang Chosen as UN Messenger of Peace –". [dead link]

Further reading

  • Lang, Lang: "Journey of a thousand miles : my story", Lang Lang with David Ritz, New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2009, 239 p. ISBN 978-0-385-52456-8
  • Lang, Lang: "Lang Lang: playing with flying keys", Lang Lang with Michael French, introduction by Daniel Barenboim,New York: Delacorte Press, 2008, 215 p. ISBN 978-0-385-73578-0
  • Wu, Grace: "Lang Lang", Cheng & Tsui Co, 2010, 93 p. ISBN 0-88727-758-6

External links

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