Friday, January 2, 2009

Twelve - Journey of a Thousand Miles - Lang Lang

Lang Lang was born six years after the Cultural Revolution in China. He first interest in playing piano was after watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon called Cat Concerto.

At age four he started taking piano lessons with Professor Zhu Ya-fen. His father instilled in him a desire to be number one and made Lang Lang stick to a strict regime of practicing. The next year - at age 5 - he entered his first piano competition and won. A few years later he enters another competition and manages to place 7th.

When Lang Lang was nine years old, his Dad and him leave Shenyang and his mother to study in Beijing. Right after they move to Beijing, Lang Lang and his father get into a fight which causes him to stop playing piano for a while. Eventually he makes his way back to the piano and finds a new teacher in Beijing - Professor Zhao. Professor Zhao helps Lang Lang prepare for his conservatory audition. Over 3,000 students apply for 12 spots at the conservatory. Lang Lang places first among the applicants to the conservatory and his professional training begins.

Lang Lang continues to enter competitions and place first. At age 12, he travels to Germany to compete in his first international competition. Again Lang Lang's determination and hard work allows him to place first and beat two other Chinese pianists. After winning the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition in Japan, he plays for the first time with an orchestra.

At age 13 he travels to America and spends the summer in New England learning English and playing piano. In September 1996, 14 years old, Lang Lang plays with the China National Symphony for the president of China.

His win in Japan catches the eye of Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In March 1997, Lang Lang auditions and wins a full scholarship to Curtis, including an apartment with a piano and living expenses. Gary turns Lang Lang's focus from competition to competition to playing the music and performing for others. In addition to his musical studies, Lang Lang meets with a tutor to understand the American culture better.

His first big break came at age 17 when he substituted for Andre Watts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravina playing Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. At age 18, he had his Carnegie Hall debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He returned to his home country China in May 2001 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Western Europe debut was at the BBC proms in London in August 2001. In May 2002, Lang Lang graduated from the Curtis Institute and played at Ravina again.

Lang Lang's career is simply amazing and he's only just begun. At age 26, he is playing worldwide with many orchestras and giving master classes to young students. Even though his father pushed him to be dedicated, Lang Lang has always enjoyed playing piano and performing for others.

Lang Lang with David Ritz. Journey of a Thousand Miles. Spiegel & Grau (2008). 256 pages. ISBN 0385524560.
I saw Lang Lang perform Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto with the New York Philharmonic in October 2004. I really didn't know who he was but I was amazed with his performance that night. After reading this biography, I have a deeper respect for his dedication to the art. His parents sacrificed alot so that he could be number one. I'm sure they are very proud of their son and all that he has accomplished so far.

If you haven't heard Lang Lang play before - check out this performance of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic from February 2008.
First Movement - part one
First Movement - part two
Second Movement
Third Movement

No comments:

Post a Comment