The BBC excelled themselves earlier this week presenting a very interesting documentary delving into the life of the chinese concert pianist Lang Lang. The programme was introduced by Alan Yentob as part of the Imagine series.
For those unaware of Lang Lang’s phenomenal world fame, he is one of the few classical pianists to have achieved ‘superstar’ status particularly in China. His celebrity appeal is such that he was chosen to perform in the Queen’s Diamond Jubliee Celebration Concert held outside Buckingham Palace earlier this year alongside pop, rock and other mainstream artists.
Born in Shenyang in China, Lang Lang entered the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music aged just 9 and won first prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Japan at 13. After studying with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute of Music in the US, his career took off and he has subsequently been in demand all over the world performing at most major venues with renowned orchestras and conductors.
Despite developing a massive fan base, Lang Lang has many critics; many find his playing distasteful to say the least and there are those who can’t abide his distinctly ‘show biz’ style. However, this documentary painted Lang Lang in a completely different light in my opinion. It revealed a life quite removed from the assumed glamour and jet set lifestyle.
As a young boy growing up in China, life with an overbearing father proved to be tortuous at times. He was routinely forced to practice and develop a ‘winning’ attitude. This has quite clearly deeply affected the pianist demonstrating the negative impact obsessive parents can have on their offspring.
For me, the most interesting aspect of Lang Lang illustrious career is the dedication and commitment he displays towards music education and piano teaching particularly. He has apparently completely revived interest in classical music in the Far East; there are over 40 million children in China learning the piano today and much of this interest in piano playing and classical music generally is attributed to Lang Lang’s success. He has just opened his own piano school and was filmed selecting suitable piano teachers.
It was quite clear that he relished giving masterclasses and lessons to the youngsters too. Many pianists of this stature would never even consider spending so much time and effort encouraging young players. He is evidently quite driven in his quest to help as many children as possible to play the piano and develop a love for classical music – and for that he surely deserves an accolade?
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