Young Scholar Alumni Maxim Lando – quick interview about Piano
Congratulations on the successful performances at your Carnegie Hall Debut and at the Steinway Young Scholars Concert series. How do you feel after your big performance at Carnegie Hall?
To be honest, I feel amazing. It’s been a very important project to me to perform the complete Liszt Transcendental Etudes someplace like Carnegie Hall – so performing it, along with the first half of the program, to a sold out crowd at Zankel Hall was a dream come true. Now I am already working on several new projects, but I’m also making plans to record the Liszt during the next few months. I really want to capture how I feel about these etudes at exactly this point in my life. I know I will come back to them at another point in my life, but it will be different from now.
What does the Young Scholar (YS) program of Lang Lang International Music Foundation (LLIMF) mean to you on your way pursuing music?
In a word – everything! The program has supported me, given me performance opportunities I could only dream of, and inspired me completely. One of the great things about the program is the other Young Scholars – I think without even realizing it, we constantly influence and push each other to discover our own selves. The friendships are very special because we keep coming in and out of each others lives as we are growing up and figuring out our own careers, but when we started we were all nervous and just wanted to somehow impress each other. And of course we ALL wanted to impress Lang Lang – who is this unbelievable inspiration, one of the world’s most successful musicians, an influencer of gigantic proportions – and best of all to us, acts just like a kid (in the BEST of ways)!
How did you hear or find out about the LLIMF, and why did you want to join or become a part of the YS program of LLIMF?
My beloved teacher Hung-Kuan Chen who has guided me since I was 10 years old, suggested that I audition for the program.
Do you still remember the moment when you found out you were selected to as a Young Scholar? Can you share with us your story?
To be honest I don’t actually remember the moment, but I know I was over the moon excited!
During the two years as a young scholar, what are some things you learn or did with the foundation that were the most memorable?
There are way too many things to list! Through the foundation I was sent all over the world for performance opportunities (Paris, Oxford, Barcelona, Munich, Beijing, and more), masterclasses, and even two competitions. The competitions were huge, because I would have never even considered going without the foundation’s support. I ended up getting top prizes in a competition in Germany and another one in Russia. Because of this I ended up with invitations to perform around 8 times with major Russian orchestras, and playing non-stop chamber music concerts with top musicians in Europe. So many of my opportunities can be traced back to a first introduction through LLIMF.
Also as Young Scholars I think we have had an inside glimpse into networking and how important the role of music supporters and sponsors are to a musician’s life. We were often invited to perform at extremely fancy functions, where we would have the opportunity to talk to some fascinating people and network. What possible better way is there to learn about this side of the performing world then to be right in the middle of it for a few amazing moments.
Tell us about the story between you and Lang Lang during the two years’ program, how did he influence you?
My very first encounter with Lang Lang was playing Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca as a duet. I had just turned 12 and I was getting a chance to play with Lang Lang! So when we met, I asked Lang Lang if he would consider us changing it up a little and playing Fazil Say’s jazz version of the same piece. Right away, he agreed! It was amazing! He was so down to earth and so fun. Lang Lang sight read the secondo part (which didn’t really even exist, we were making up our own version on the spot), and we just had a blast! Later that day we played it on the radio, and the next day we played at the United Nations.
What influences me most about Lang Lang is his absolute dedication to making classical music accessible to everyone. He does this both through education, and by showing people that classical music doesn’t need to be stuffy. At the same time he is simply a great great musician. He’s succeeding where almost no one else has in bringing huge new audiences to this timeless genre of music. Most of all I think he influences me to find my own direction, and I couldn’t be more thankful.
As an alumnus, what’s your relationship with LLIMF and other alumni?
As an alumnus I am involved with LLIMF as much as they will have me, and plan to stay that way! I consider Lang Lang a very close friend at this point and we have had many amazing adventures together over the past few years. I will feel indebted to him forever for his generosity, inspiration, and for opening doors for me into the world of performance.
As for the other alumni, we are a network now, strong and growing. We are close friends and I think we will be there to support each other as we become working colleagues later in life!
LLIMF is selecting young scholars for 2020-2022, do you have anything to say to the new young scholars?
Enjoy every minute and take advantage of every opportunity that you can! Stay friends for life with each of the other scholars and most importantly have fun!!
To a majority of kids who are playing piano, do you have any suggestions for them?
Don’t quit! Music is something very special. It’s a gift and part of what makes us human. It doesn’t matter how advanced you are or what you think you might do with the piano – just keep learning so you can develop the skills to play simply for the love of it, for fun!