Lang Lang born 14 June 1982 is a Chinese concert pianist who has performed with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and his native China.
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. 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 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”. 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.
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.
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, Theater platz in Dresden and Derby Park Hamburg.
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.
In December 2007, Lang Lang performed at the Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm. Collaborating with Seiji Ozawa, he appeared at the New Year’s Eve gala opening for the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. He also participated in the opening concert at Munich’s Olympic Stadium with Mariss Jansons, marking the commencement of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, 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.
In 2008, an audience estimated at up to a billion people saw Lang Lang’s performance in Beijing’s opening ceremony for the2008 Summer Olympics where he was promoted as a symbol of the youth and future of China. 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. 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, playingGeorge 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. In April 2008, he premiered Tan Dun’s First Piano Concerto, subtitled “The Fire”. Hancock and Lang Lang continued to collaborate with a world tour in summer 2009. Lang played at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prizeceremony for US President Barack Obama and at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo the next day.
Lang Lang and singer Katharine McPhee perform at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., 24 May 2009
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 andPeople. Lang Lang holds the title of the first Ambassador of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
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.
Lang Lang was featured in the award-winning German-Austrian documentary Pianomania, 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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, 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 2010Shanghai 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.