Managing to get the treasured ticket, I was thrilled to hear Lang Lang perform again at the recently sold-out recital at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. With the evening’s versatile repertoire Debussy, Liszt, Albeniz, and others, the evening was full of wonder and the spectacular technique and presentation we expect from Lang Lang (but never get enough of). Gifting the adoring audience with an encore during a standing ovation was like watching Sasha Cohen gracefully and effortlessly skating on the piano keys of Chopin’s “Nocturne in C Sharp Minor” and Huan Zhi’s “Spring Overture” in honor of the Chinese New Year for which Lang Lang expressed his warm greetings from the stage. We headed home happy, smiling, and blessed for the future, full of hope and the beautiful sounds of music. Gung Hay Fat Choi to all.
It all started with watching the “Cat Concerto” episode of Tom and Jerry, set to the music of Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody #2,” when Lang Lang was only two years old. This was the first time the youngster was introduced to Western music and as they say, the rest is history; Lang Lang’s love of music was born and we are forever richer. No wonder he serves as an Ambassador of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. How very smart of Google, YouTube’s business partner, to recruit Lang Lang as its Music Ambassador. With both companies located in the heart of Silicon Valley, rest assured the Bay Area is definitely Lang Lang Land.
Who would have thought that watching and hearing a cartoon would motivate Lang Lang to learn the piano. Well, here the not-so-short musical journey of a toddler who became an international sensation. Lang Lang began piano lessons at the age of three. He won the prestigious Shenyang Competition and gave his first recital by five. Enrolled in Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at age nine, he won first prize at the prestigious Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition at the age of thirteen. With his fame reaching overseas, he was invited to the famed Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied with Gary Graffman and came to worldwide attention as a last-minute soloist substitute with the Chicago Symphony.
Lang Lang made his San Francisco Symphony debut in October 2000 as a Shenson Young Artist. In addition to his regular appearances with leading orchestras worldwide, Lang Lang performed a concert with Israel’s Philharmonic under the brilliant baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta in Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium, which I was very fortunate to attend with my beloved late mom, who could not decide whom she liked better, Zubin Mehta or the young Lang Lang.
Chopin played a key role in Lang Lang’s career. A year-long season commemorating the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth was officially launched in 2010 with a gala concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall featuring 27-year-old Lang Lang. This was, in my humble opinion, an era when Lang Lang finally reached maturity in his superb understanding of a true Polish Chopin-esque feeling and interpretation. While visiting Warsaw at this time I could feel the city’s every inch breathe with Chopin’s music. It was filled to capacity with the sounds of his unforgettable compositions.
Lang Lang has given performances at the World Cup, The Grammy Awards (where he was the first Chinese artist to be nominated for Best Instrumental Soloist), and the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His film credits include the Golden Globe-winning score for The Painted Veil. As the world mourned the passing of the legendary poet/singer Leonard Cohen last year at the age of 82, Lang Lang turned the singer’s iconic “Hallelujah” into a mesmerizing mini piano rhapsody.
Lang Lang is one of the world’s most popular and in-demand artists. His many appearances included performances for President Barak Obama, President Hu Jintao of China, President Horst Kohler of Germany, Prince Charles, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Polish President Lech Kaczynski. In 2012, Lang Lang played Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody #6” and Gershwin’s ”Rhapsody In Blue” at Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace. Hmm, seems he has passion for rhapsodies.
Lang Lang has introduced music into the lives of children, both through his work for the United Nations and through his own Lang Lang International Music Foundation headquartered in New York with the foundation’s European partners in Vienna and Berlin. “I have loved making my new series for complete beginners and presenting a way of learning the piano that 21st century children can relate to,” says Lang Lang.
After all, not all kids watch Tom and Jerry. Now they are more into “Star Wars.”
Lina Broydo immigrated from Russia, then the Soviet Union, to Israel where she was educated and got married. After working at the University in Birmingham, England, she and her husband immigrated to the United States. She lives in Los Altos Hills, CA and writes about travel, art, style, entertainment, and sports. She hardly cooks or bakes, with no borsch or piroshky on her home cooking menu. Therefore, she makes reservations and enjoys dining out, mostly sushi.