Lang Lang tells life story in Oxford

Updated: 2012-02-18 10:29


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OXFORD - Chinese pianist Lang Lang inspired students in Oxford Friday evening with his life story, before playing a short piano piece for the audiences.

The event was held at the Oxford Union Debating Chamber, attracted hundreds of students. The hall became so crowded that many had to stand from the beginning to the end.

Lang was born in Shenyang, capital city of Northeast China's Liaoning province, in 1982. His father was a musician playing traditional Chinese music instrument Erhu, while his mother a singer. He showed his music talent at the age of two, when he was attracted by a piece of music in the cartoon series Tom and Jerry.

Lang's father bought him the piano the next year. At the age of five, he won the top prize at a local piano competition in Shenyang and performed his first public recital.

"My father later quit his job and we moved to Beijing for further study," he recalled. They were funded by his mother's meager salary. Life was bitter. "There was no heating in the tiny room and my new teacher always believed me not good enough." One day the teacher even announced to stop teaching him.

"I then became to hate piano," he said. For more than a month, he didn't even lay his fingers on the piano.

When he was 12, the boy got his first chance to go abroad: he went to an international contest in Germany. His father borrowed 50,000 yuan (about $7,945) from relatives and friends, but his efforts paid off. Lang won the first prize. His father cried.

Another change in his life came in 1999, when a famous musician couldn't play in a concert in Chicago. "I got a phone call, asking me to play instead 24 hours later," he said.

The performance turned out to be a great success. 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."

"I found myself in a dream," Lang described his feeling at that time.

In retrospect, Lang said he was grateful to his parents and mentors who brought him into the palace of music.

The pianist said he wanted to reduce the number of his concerts a year so as to get more involved in charity work. He is now ambassador of the United Nations Children's Fund. He also had a foundation named after him, and a school opened in China's Shenzhen to help the talented children in short of financial support, or those without qualified teacher, so as to realize their dreams of becoming musicians.

"I want to ignite the passion of children in music, so that they can help bridge the cultural gaps between countries," he said.

When asked whether talent or diligence more important for success, Lang answered tactically: "In music there is something you can't learn from textbook: the personal interpretation and the way of making music phrase. However, with the talent, once should work as equally as others. A lot of people have talents, but few become master. If you don't work hard to fix your problems on time, the talent will disappear."

At last he played a short piano piece by Robert Schumann, Widmung, which means Dedication in English, so as to inspire the students. His performance won thunderous applause.

An architecture student named Tatiana said she was impressed by Lang's "passion and hard work which finally paid off."

While another girl, Ella Thurston, said she came to know the pianist last year from a concert in London. "He was very humorous, " she said. Thurston noted that Lang's story was inspiring in other fields as well. "You need to practice so as to achieve," she said.

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