An Interview with Lang Lang

Image Credit Time Magazine

By Iman Sadri

What the rarest of Foie Gras is to taste buds, Lang Lang is to the ear. The virtuoso pianist from China dazzled a packed Orange County, California audience at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Thursday night. The Costa Mesa based concert hall is a pioneering patron of the arts, but this evening it provided a stage for prodigious star power. Lang Lang’s list of professional accolades reads like a bucket list few could even dream to entertain. Some of these highlights include playing to 5 billion people during the Beijing opening ceremony at the 2008 Summer Olympics, appearing in Time Magazine’s 2009 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and being a guest soloist at the 2007 Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm.

Image Credit AP
Despite the aforementioned highlights, one of Lang Lang’s fondest memories was “Playing for the first time at Carnegie Hall, at age 18, that was special.” Lang Lang continued, “The highlight of my life was going to Tanzania as a UNICEF ambassador to visit the children suffering from malaria and AIDS/HIV.” When asked why this particular trip and not any moment on stage meant the most to him, Lang Lang responded, “I realized how powerful music can be to inspire and light up a hope in the future of children.”
Image Credit Chicago Tribune
His Orange County performance included a rare double concerto, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. Both were played in E Flat, a key that Lang Lang calls “The heroic key.” Coincidentally, Liszt and Beethoven compromise two of his greatest classical heroes. When asked what about Franz Liszt excites him the most, Lang Lang replied, “Liszt was the first composer to have his own manager, even in the 1800’s. ” In fact, it was Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 during a Tom and Jerry episode that inspired a two year old Lang Lang to pick up the piano. When asked if he could meet either Mozart or Beethoven, Lang Lang answered, “I would meet Mozart definitely over Beethoven, he was just an all in one figure. “

Lang Lang’s broad appeal and brand is partly based on his stylistic motion during his piano performances. “We must work with our heart to bring out all different kinds of feeling. This music is beyond life ….. We can’t just let it ring without meaning and a nice performer is an interpreter of this …. To play those imagined sounds and turn those into real emotions is so important.” Lang Lang continued by adding, “It’s not about how you move (during play), but how you deliver the music. Young people need to know that classical music is a serious music, at least with attitude, but can be very exciting as well.”

The Persian Observer’s Iman Sadri with Lang Lang at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts after their interview in 2012.

Lang Lang’s musical prowess and brand has helped bridge China-U.S. relations, at least in terms of a cultural connection. Lang Lang’s take on the political relationship between the East and West, “I think it’s good that over the last few years, there have been many cultural opportunities (to unite) between the U.S. and China.” Any language barriers among Mandarin and English speaking communities would also have to be overcome. A first learning lesson: the definition of Lang Lang, which means “brilliance of the sky.” If the stubborn West had its way with the semantics, Lang Lang would be redefined ” brilliance on the piano. “

This article was originally published for The Persian Mirror Sep, 28, 2012 – Iman Sadri writes for Persian Media outlets and interviewed Lang Lang, Sep 2012