All about Lang Lang

Updated: 2013-07-11 09:53

By Raymond Zhou (

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All about Lang Lang

Chinese pianist Lang Lang poses during a photocall at the 47th MIDEM (International record music publishing and video music market) in Cannes January 28, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]

China's gift to the classical music world is an epitome of both superb artistry and rock-star showmanship. Lang Lang has come so far before he reached the age of 31 that scaling greater heights would take a leap of imagination, writes Raymond Zhou.

On June 14, 2013, two Chinese superstar musicians staged a little duel – not duet, but a kind of mock musical duel. Lang Lang and Jay Chou invited three members of the audience at Qinghua University to each strike a random note on the piano and they followed up by fleshing the notes out into a complete piece.

Jay Chou was to go first, and he turned the three notes into something similar to one of his pop songs. When the hapless fans again picked notes, two of them struck keys very close to each other, and Lang, facing away from them, jokingly pleaded: "Please give me some range."

He made do with their choice of notes but expanded to cover much of the whole keyboard, finishing with a flourish.

This match of improvisation was, of course, all in good sports, part of a gala nicknamed "Lang Lang and His Friends", to celebrate youthful dreams and, coincidentally, Lang's 31st birthday.

Lang and Chou hail from two ends of the musical spectrum, but they share some common roots: Chou started by setting his eyes on becoming a concert pianist, but in the middle of the road "took a swerve" into the pop realm. Lang chimed in, saying he actually desired for this kind of "swerve".

Lang Lang has never shown any serious interest in crossing over to pop music. He has gained an enormous worldwide audience by appearing in high-profile shows ranging from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics to the BBC Proms in London. Despite the occasional prerequisite pop tune or patriotic song, he hews pretty closely to the classical canon. This has earned him a lot of respect because his rock star-like stature is built on a solid core base of professional achievements.

However, Lang is open to opportunities that put him on the same stage with pop sensations like Jay Chou or jazz veterans like Herbie Hancock. He is generous to his colleagues and heaps praise on Jay Chou for "his well-rounded talents that include song-writing" and on jazz pianists for their great skills of improvization.

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