Lang Lang

Lang Lang: You can't compare Bach and Schoenberg, or Justin Timberlake and The Beatles

The pianist tells the Spectator his dazzling career was inspired by the Tom and Jerry Show – and that sometimes he has to fend off bad spirits
The Spectator - Matthew Stadlen 11 January 2014
As Lang Lang walked from the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in November, a little girl emerged from the audience to embrace him. It was a disarming moment that seemed to symbolise the impact of the 31-year-old Chinese pianist. He has rock star appeal.
And then, for Lang Lang, the end was the beginning. Following three Mozart piano sonatas and four Chopin Ballades, he played six encores. After the third or fourth, he asked us, ‘Shall we keep going or shall we go home?’ A Cuban dance, a Chinese piece…When he finally finished with an explosion of Scriabin, thousands rose to their feet in recognition of his virtuosity.
I joined them, despite having been disappointed by his Mozart. Artur Schnabel’s playing of the A Minor sonata is hard to emulate, and Vladimir Horowitz’s performance of Chopin’s notoriously difficult Ballade 1 is mesmerising on YouTube.
Still, there is no doubt Lang Lang can play. Just listen to his Liszt. Sir Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim work with him and he performs on the world’s biggest stages. In 2008, four billion people watched him at the Opening Ceremony of his hometown Olympics. And what makes the man from Beijing stand out almost as much as his whirring fingers are his charm and charisma.
Lang Lang is a phenomenon. His enthusiasm is irrepressible and it is impossible not to like him immediately. At the very end of the performance, he gave a giant bunch of flowers to the same tiny child. In China there are 50 million little girls and boys who play the piano. Many of them are said to have been inspired by Lang Lang...