Founder & President
“I have taken on a second career!” said Lang Lang at the Foundation launch event!”
If one word applies to Lang Lang, to the musician, to the man, to his worldview, to those who come into contact with him, it is “inspiration”. It resounds like a musical motif through his life and career. He inspires millions with his open-hearted, emotive playing, whether it be in intimate recitals or on the grandest of stages – such as the 2014 World Cup concert in Rio, with Placido Domingo, to celebrate the final game; the 56th GRAMMY Award, where he performed with Metallica; the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where more than four billion people around the world viewed his performance; the Last Night of the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, or the Liszt 200th birthday concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Charles Dutoit which was broadcast live in more than 300 movie theaters around the United States and 200 cinemas across Europe (the first classical music cinemacast to be headlined by a solo artist). He forms enduring musical partnerships with the world’s greatest artists, from conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel and Sir Simon Rattle, to artists from outside of classical music – among them dubstep dancer Marquese “nonstop” Scott, king of the crooners Julio Inglesias and jazz titan Herbie Hancock. He even builds relationships with corporations who will help him get classical music to ever-more people – thanks to his Sony ambassadorship, for instance, he brought Prokofiev’s 7th Piano Sonata to the soundtrack of the multi-million- selling computer game Gran Turismo 5and 6! And he builds cultural bridges between East and West, frequently introducing Chinese music to Western audiences, and vice versa.
Yet he never forgets what first inspired, and continues to inspire him. Great artists, above all the great composers – Liszt, Chopin and the others – whose music he now delights in bringing to others. Even that famous old Tom and Jerry cartoon “The Cat Concerto” which introduced him, as a delighted child, to the music of Liszt – and that childlike excitement at the discovery of music now surely stays with him and propels him to what he calls “his second career”, bringing music into the lives of children around the world, both through his work for the United Nations and through his own Lang Lang International Music Foundation. As he inspires, he is inspired. As he is inspired, he inspires others. It is this quality, perhaps, that led the New Yorker to call him “the world’s ambassador of the keyboard”.
It takes a special kind of dedication to come from a small Chinese town Shenyang , to travel to the big city as a small child and to win the attention of the country’s finest music professors. And then to leave behind your home country altogether to join the world-famous Curtis Institute of Music Philadelphia, USA. Lang Lang achieved all of these early on – he started playing piano aged three, won the Shenyang Competition and gave his first public recital by the time he was five, entered Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory aged nine, won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians’ Competition and playing the complete Chopin Etudes at the Beijing Concert Hall at 13. He left for America, Curtis and the great piano teacher Gary Graffman and when his moment came, he was ready. That moment happened when, aged 17, he was called upon to make a dramatic last-minute substitution for the famous Andre Watts to perform in the “Gala Of The Century”, playing a Tchaikovsky concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It made him what journalists like to call an “overnight star” and the world’s finest concert halls quickly beckoned.