17 November 2020
By Ellie Palmer
The Chinese pianist has inspired millions of young players around the globe through his outreach work
Lang Lang appears on the cover of issue 117 of Pianist.
Few artists can claim to have had the same remarkable effect on the world of music than Lang Lang. He has had an unbelievably distinguished career so far, having already released over 20 albums in just 17 years. His first release – Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn: First Piano Concertos - came out in 2003. Since then, he has recorded works by Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Prokofiev, Mozart, Bach, Debussy, Grieg, Schubert and many more.
But remarkably, it may not even be his long line of discography that will be remembered the most after his career eventually draws to a close.
Below, we take a look at six reasons why Lang Lang is more than just a pianist, and why he is so adored around the world.
1. He donated $5,000,000 to Music Education in the USA
Photo credit: Robert Ascroft / Sony Classical
$5,000,000. What a donation! On April 5 2019, Lang Lang announced that he will donate the huge sum to help ensure students across the United States have a chance to learn piano. "I believe the kids need to play themselves," he explained to Forbes. "You can’t just tell them what to listen to. They have to actually touch the keyboard to make the connection between themselves and the instrument. Leaning music is like learning a language, and when you don't speak the language, you never really get the meaning of it. For music, it's the same thing. We have to constantly let the kids perform on stage, to play for each other and to have this community and communication between the students themselves."
Check out his full interview with Forbes.
2. He founded the Lang Lang International Music Foundation
Photo credit: The Lang Lang International Music Foundation
Lang Lang has changed the lives of many young pianists all over the world since he founded LLIMF back in 2008.
The Foundation strongly believes in all children having the right to access a music education, regardless of their background. Lang Lang himself offers to mentor young and exceptional players through his Young Scholars programme, as well setting up partnerships all around the world with the likes of the Leeds International Piano Competition, the Gilmore Keyboard Festival and the Oxford Piano Festival.
3. He launched a 101 Pianists programme
Lang Lang performing with 101 young pianists. Photo credit: The Lang Lang International Music Foundation
Lang Lang and the foundation have also developed a 101 Pianists programme, inspiring 100,000 audience members and 1,400 piano students around the world to date.
The programme aims to inspire young pianists by engaging them in social music events. All 101 pianists play together at the same time, creating a magnificent wall of sound and providing an extraordinary show for their audiences.
4. He developed Keys of Inspiration
Keys of Inspiration student Kennedy talks about the positive effect of the programme on her piano playing
Music education across the world, particularly in the UK, has seen a decline in recent years. Lang Lang has helped develop innovative school programmes aimed at giving students the chance to learn the piano as a means of social development for youth.
The programme gives students a replicable way of progressing through their music grades and is currently in place at numerous schools around the world. And it’s working!
5. He is a United Nations Messenger of Peace
Photo credit: Amanda Voisard. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Lang Lang
In late 2013, Lang Lang was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace – a title given to distinguished individuals who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention onto the work of the United Nations.
He went on to state that the award is more important than his music because it can help improve the lives of children around the world through education. He was tasked with focusing on global education.
Lang Lang is in good company; previous recipients include Leonardo DiCaprio, Muhammad Ali and Malala Yousafzai.
6. His inspiring injury comeback
Watch Lang Lang perform Rhapsody in Blue with one hand whilst Maxim Lando, his protégé, supplied the missing hand. Lang Lang was suffering with tendonitis in his left hand at the time
After releasing 18 albums in 14 years, the star was unfortunately diagnosed with severe tendonitis in 2017. This arm injury affects numerous pianists, with many forced to retire as a result. That easily could have been the case with Lang Lang, but luckily, he made a speedy recovery.
Most importantly, he did not panic. His ability to stay calm is a real inspiration for pianists around the globe who are struggling with injury. “I had to stay positive and make things fun,” he explains in his past interview inside issue 107 of Pianist.
Still in his 30s, Lang Lang certainly has many years ahead of him as a top-level pianist. But what we do know is that he will continue to be a huge positive influence on the younger generations for much longer.
Long may the Lang Lang effect continue!
Main image: © Olaf Heine