Into his dreamworld – Lang Lang performs
VAIL – Lang Lang’s voice sounds a bit groggy. He’s just awoken from a nap. He came in from Spain Tuesday night and he’s trying to get rested for his cameo with the New York Philharmonic.”It’s a really long trip,” said the 22-year-old piano virtuoso from his hotel room in Vail.If you don’t like to travel, Lang Lang said, you wouldn’t like his profession. He’s usually not in one place for more than three days, he said, which means a lot of jet-lag.Although when he heard mention of the two performances with the famed orchestra from New York, a burst of adrenaline streamed through his veins.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “It’s one orchestra that I feel very, very close with. They are truly one of the best orchestras in the world, and to make music with great musicians is such a joy. To make music, you always need to be inspired by great musicians. And plus, I am very good friends with many of the members of the New York Philharmonic. It’s like playing with family.”But there’s a bigger reason Lang Lang is devoted to the famed philharmonic, his relationship with the orchestra’s executive director.Born in 1982 in Shenyang, China, he began piano lessons at the age of 3 with Professor Zhu Ya-Fen. At the age of 5 he won the Shenyang Piano Competition and played his first public recital. He entered Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory when he was nine, studying with Professor Zhao Ping-Guo. At the age of 11, he won the first prize and award for outstanding artistic performance at the Fourth International Young Pianists Competition in Germany. In 1995 at 13 years of age, he played the complete Chopin 24 Etudes at Beijing Concert Hall and won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians’ Competition in Japan, where he performed the Chopin Concerto No. 2 with the Moscow Philharmonic in a concert broadcast by NHK Television. At 14 he was a featured soloist at the China National Symphony’s inaugural concert, broadcast by CCTV and attended by President Jiang Ze-Min. The following year he began studies with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. An extraordinary breakthrough came in 1999, when he was 17, with his dramatic last-minute substitution for an indisposed André Watts at the Ravinia Festival’s “Gala of the Century” in Chicago. He played the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Chicago Symphony and Christoph Eschenbach and the New York orchestra’s executive director Lorin Maazel listened. “Lorin Maazel is one of the most important people in my life because he basically discovered me,” he said. “Lorin’s always been a mentor and always supported my career.”Hailed by critics and with Maazel behind him, Lang Lang’s career erupted and has since progressed from one triumphant appearance to the next.
The subject of a best-selling biography in China, Lang Lang has received numerous awards. As a Steinway artist, he received the first-ever Gold Medallion on the occasion of the company’s 150th anniversary. In the summer of 2002, he became the first recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, in recognition of his distinguished musical talent. More recently Lang Lang, a resident of Philadelphia, won the 2004 Pennsylvania Governor’s Artist of the Year Award.Thursday night he performed the wildly romantic Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which he describes as a dramatic fairy-tale. He’s in habit of visualizing the music he plays.”You need to understand the music,” he said. “You must know the notes and the harmony, and then you need to bring yourself to another world and visualize an image. The more you think you make it so complicated. It’s not natural. Music should be like a language you need to learn it, and then you need to speak it.Lang Lang will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor.”I think it’s the most romantic piano concerto,” he said. “I started to listen to this piece when I was a kid and I always loved to play it. It’s like a nature – a forest with a river and the most beautiful trees – like a landscape.Sounds dreamy.
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado