Lang Lang

Lang Lang: journey from torment to triumph

It’s another packed day in Lang Lang’s crazy, globetrotting schedule. He appears in the lobby of his Paris hotel in a silvery Armani suit, having just had a meeting about his new worldwide foundation to encourage music-making among children. (This has become an all-consuming passion, reflected in the “mass-piano” events for young performers he’s leading at his forthcoming London residency.) He orders tea, flings himself down in a chair, and remarks with a laugh that we’re meeting on April Fool’s Day. Do they have a similar custom in China, I ask?
“Well, not really. I learned about it in America, but you know I moved to America when I was 14, so I’ve been there half my life. So now it seems like my own custom.”
The long process of adjusting to Western ways began in 1997, when Lang Lang won a scholarship to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Was that his first trip away from home? “No, I went to Germany the year before, for a piano competition. I remember walking down the streets, seeing these grand old buildings, and I was amazed at how solid they were. We have old buildings in China, but they are made of wood, so for me this was very new.”
Did he know anything about Europe at that time? His eyes light up at a memory. “Of course! I was totally crazy about football, so I knew all the names of these British cities like Manchester and Liverpool and Italian ones like Perugia. I used to watch it on cable TV, which was just starting in the early Nineties.”
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