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The keys to global success

Passionate pianist maintains a busy schedule as he thrills audiences on world tour in support of new album, Chen Nan reports.

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-15 05:50
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In June 2023, he played with conductor Andris Nelsons and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra at Concertgebouw, one of the world's most renowned concert halls, in Amsterdam. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Lang saw his career take off and became an overnight sensation after playing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was just 17.

In 2008, he performed at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and teamed up with jazz legend Herbie Hancock, performing at the Grammy Awards. In 2020, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of recording Bach's monumental Goldberg Variations, a landmark achievement for any pianist.

"Now, I am living the dream that I had as a child, even better," Lang says. "You have to work very hard, because that's the only way you prepare yourself well enough to get the opportunity."

Besides his goal of being the world's top pianist, what is also unchanged is the joy that music brings him. Even when he took a long break after injuring his left hand in 2017, he tried to rethink his approach to music by practicing the instrument in his head.

"I don't want to do anything else but play piano. I play much better and I know how to play, compared to my days of learning piano as a child. However, the pleasant feeling and the power that music gives me, and the fulfillment of completing a piece of music, never changes," he says. "It has nothing to do with age or experience. What I gain by playing piano cannot be obtained by anything else in the world."

Lang's success story has inspired millions of young people in China to take up the piano — a phenomenon known as "The Lang Lang Effect". He also created the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in 2008, which upholds the belief that more children can have access to music education and opportunities.

"Now we have over 200 charity schools in the world, including over 110 in China. We also donated more than 100,000 pianos to people who may not have the opportunity to learn music," he says.

To enable more people to have a better understanding and realize the pleasure of listening to classical music, he released the albums Piano Book in 2019, in which he reinterpreted the classical music repertories he learned as child, and The Disney Book in 2022, celebrating 100 years of Disney and featuring iconic movie melodies.

"For those who want to become a pianist, and who are learning the instrument, I want to tell them to dream big and focus on what they are doing. The world is changing fast with advanced technology and so many options; you need to work hard and stick to your goal," Lang says. "If I had another chance to live again, I would choose the same path. I would make the same effort I always did."

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