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#919915 - 04/02/04 10:47 AM What's Lang Lang up to?  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 2,506
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member
AndrewG  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 2,506
Denver, Colorado
In Chicago Sun Times:

Lang Lang always in tune with Chicago

April 2, 2004



Lang Lang, the effervescent, 21-year-old Chinese-American pianist, is a classical music superstar whose career went into overdrive at the 1999 Ravinia Festival. He was a teenage unknown when he all but brought down the roof of Ravinia's pavilion at the festival's annual gala concert that year. He has been performing around the world ever since and is a regular visitor to Chicago. Lang Lang will back in town for a solo recital on Sunday afternoon at Symphony Center.

Most recent Chicago gig: Oct. 18, 2003, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's annual benefit concert conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Lang Lang was soloist in the fiery Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 at Symphony Center. Also that night was the opening game of the 2003 World Series. If the Cubs had not folded earlier that week, blowing an opportunity for their first trip to the World Series since 1945, Lang Lang would have reported the World Series score to the CSO audience before he sat down to play. They did, so he didn't.

Latest CD release: "Lang Lang Live at Carnegie Hall.'' A recording of his highly anticipated Carnegie Hall recital debut last Nov. 7 issued by Deutsche Grammophon, the venerable classical label. The two-CD set of works by Schumann, Haydn, Schubert, Liszt, Chopin and contemporary Chinese-American composer Tan Dun is part of DG's "New Generation of Classical Music's Rising Stars'' project. Designed to appeal to a younger, hipper audience, the project includes American violinist Hilary Hahn, French pianist Helene Grimaud and Esa-Pekka Salonen, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The cover art of Lang Lang's CD is a photo of the handsome young pianist striding purposefully outside Carnegie past posters of himself at the keyboard plastered over with "Sold Out'' signs.

His recital Sunday is part of a 10-city American tour supporting the new CD.

Night when he went out there a nobody -- and came back a star: Saturday, Aug. 14, 1999, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park. He was 17 and had been at Ravinia the previous Tuesday auditioning for Christoph Eschenbach and Zarin Mehta, then the festival's top music and administrative guns. On Thursday, when noted pianist Andre Watts dropped out of his spot on the Ravinia gala due to illness, Mehta called Lang Lang and told him to get on a plane. He played the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the CSO and Eschenbach on a star-studded program emceed by violin legend Isaac Stern. Other soloists included Midori, Frederica von Stade and Alicia de Larrocha. For a little post-concert relaxation, at 1 a.m. Lang Lang treated Mehta and a few others to an impromptu performance of Bach's daunting, hour-long "Goldberg'' Variations in Ravinia's Martin Theater

Most recent memorable quote: "I want to be the Tiger Woods of classical music.''

Lang Lang, 3 p.m. Sunday, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. Tickets, $18-$39. Call (312) 294-3000.

#919916 - 04/17/04 08:52 AM Re: What's Lang Lang up to?  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 2,506
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member
AndrewG  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 2,506
Denver, Colorado
More on Lang Lang, I guess.

Posted on Fri, Apr. 16, 2004

Classical music lovers are tuning into Lang Lang

By Richard Scheinin


Lang Lang is just about the hottest classical musician in the world right now, recently performing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and selling out Carnegie Hall in a flash. The 21-year-old pianist, a super-virtuoso from Shenyang, China, is also about the most controversial, held up as the savior of classical music by his fans and record company Deutsche Grammophon, and blasted by some critics as a showboat, the Liberace of the smart set.

Why such praise and damnation? His gee-whiz enthusiasm, theatrical gesturing and go-for-broke performances add up to ego-laden flamboyance or emotional profundity, depending on where you sit. More like him than don't: Lang Lang's two CDs released in the past year have sold more than 80,000 copies. The next best-selling classical pianist is Glenn Gould, dead for more than 20 years.

On Saturday, Lang Lang performs at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre and, on Sunday, at Villa Montalvo's intimate Carriage House Theater in Saratoga. (Both shows are sold out.) I spoke by phone with the pianist, who lives in Philadelphia, where he attended the prestigious Curtis Institute. His mentors are famous ones: pianist Gary Graffman, Curtis' president, and conductors Daniel Barenboim and Christoph Eschenbach. But Lang Lang also cites the influence of two others: his mother, Xiulan Zhou, who exposed him to classical music in utero; and father, Guo-ren Lang, a virtuoso on the erhu, the Chinese two-string fiddle, who still performs traditional Chinese music with his son.

Q: Tell me about the crowded apartment house you lived in as a boy in China. It was filled with music?

A Yes, you cannot hide anything, the walls are so thin. My father used to be the concertmaster of a Chinese orchestra, so all of his friends and colleagues lived there in this big building. You'd hear the Chinese instruments and the Western instruments, and they also had the actors and singers from opera -- the Peking Operas. And you'd hear cartoon music -- it was a big mix! Disaster! I wouldn't live there again. My mind would explode!

Q: What music did you listen to as a boy?

A I just loved to listen to music, to Chinese music and Western music. The thing that made me a pianist is the joy that music gave to me. And you want to share that with other people.

Q: Is that your mission as a musician?

A I like to bring music to everyone, not only to the classical-music circle, but to a lot of young people in every country. So that's why I'm traveling everywhere to perform.

Q: Who are your favorite composers?

A I love Mozart and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. Basically, I like composers from Bach to contemporary. If it's good music, I just love to play it.

Q: What does it feel like to be so successful at 21?

A You're really happy and very grateful. But to have a successful career, you have to work hard to keep it. Every concert, I try to change the repertoire. I like to do new stuff, and that keeps my energy running.

But at the same time, you have to work quite a long time to sort things out and to know how to play a work, and what sort of performing style you need, and what kind of book you need to read before you play this work. I think I sometimes think more at this point than I practice on the keyboard. I used to play and not think. Now I think more than I play.

Q: You read books before you perform? Which ones?

A Shakespeare and Hugo and also some Chinese poetry.

Q: What's the relationship between the books and the music?

A Every book is related to music, because music is telling stories. Every note is like a word. And Shakespeare is very dramatic, and many composers get inspiration from him -- that's why they wrote operas and concertos. So in order to play those wonderful works, you need to know the structure of the literature.

Shakespeare is a dialogue between different characters; music is actually the same thing. You have a long phrase and a short phrase, and it's a dialogue between them. Poetic stuff!

Q: How do you feel about the criticism you've been receiving? Some of it seems mean.

A I discussed this with my teacher, Gary Graffman, and also with my great mentors, Daniel Barenboim and Christoph Eschenbach. And they said now I'm in the spotlight, and people will criticize me, no matter what. They said, "If you think some of their suggestions are right, listen to it. If you think it's not right, make it as if you never read those things."

Q: Well, is any of it right? Have you made any changes?

A Not really. They criticize me for playing on a television show. I don't think I'm wrong to do that. We need to play classical music on the mainstream television.

Q: Did you enjoy being on Jay Leno?

A Yes. Cool, very cool. That was really, really, really fun.

Q: What popular music do you listen to?

A Norah Jones. I think she has the very good taste, and she's not only a pop musician but a good musician.

Q: You've spoken about seeing a television retrospective of Vladimir Horowitz playing the piano when you were 3. What do you remember?

A It was quite fascinating, seeing this great man. I thought that to be a pianist is, like, really cool stuff. It's like some young people now seeing a pop star and saying, "Ooh, I want to be like that." Same thing.

Q: Do many young people enjoy your concerts?

A Yes. They come to my concerts and they just really like it, and they follow the classical music. They like it because I like what I'm doing, and I think if you really like what you do, other people will feel that.

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