Lang Lang

Pasatiempo - - Front Page -

Lang Lang, the 28-year-old pi­ano su­per­star, was told by his fa­ther at the age of 9 to jump off the bal­cony of their 11th-story Bei­jing apart­ment. Death, ap­par­ently, was the only op­tion af­ter an early re­jec­tion in Lang’s mu­si­cal ca­reer. As the pi­anist re­counts it in his re­cent au­to­bi­og­ra­phy,

Jour­ney of a Thou­sand Miles: My Story (pub­lished by Spiegel & Grau), the bul­ly­ing, ir­ra­tional be­hav­ior of his fa­ther only helped Lang get where he is to­day.

Her­alded at 17 as the hot new thing in a mu­sic world that has a vo­ra­cious ap­petite for new blood, Lang had a Hollywood-like de­but. Asked to au­di­tion for Christoph Eschen­bach, the con­duc­tor who was in Chicago di­rect­ing the Ravinia Fes­ti­val in 1999, Lang was called in a few days later to sub­sti­tute for An­dré Watts, who was ill. He played Tchaikovsky’s First Pi­ano Con­certo with the Chicago Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and sparked a fire of ac­claim that even his crit­ics — and there are many — have not been able to put out.

Lang comes to Santa Fe to open the Santa Fe Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion’s 74th sea­son, ap­pear­ing in recital at Santa Fe Opera on Mon­day, Sept. 20. On the pro­gram are 12 Etudes, Op. 25, by Frédéric Chopin — pieces that are con­sid­ered among the most tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing pieces in the pi­ano reper­tory and that Lang first per­formed pro­fes­sion­ally at the age of 13. “Fif­teen years have passed” since that Chopin per­for­mance, the pi­anist wrote in an email to

Pasatiempo. “How time flies. I’m sure I will have a much more ma­ture in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

In fact, mu­sic writ­ers have been say­ing ex­actly that lately about Lang’s work. In 2008, The New York Times called him “a work in progress” and added, “That’s good news for clas­si­cal mu­sic.”

“In my heart, I am try­ing to make progress,” Lang said in a phone call from Europe. “Ev­ery day, I am try­ing to im­prove mu­si­cally, to un­der­stand bet­ter. That’s our job as artists.”

In the past, crit­ics have nick­named him “Bang Bang” and lam­basted him for a showy phys­i­cal style, as if Lib­er­ace were coach­ing him from the grave. The Times also said that, while no one can quib­ble with Lang’s tech­nique, which is fre­quently awe-in­spir­ing, “He has a pen­chant for in­ter­pre­tive ex­ag­ger­a­tion. His play­ing can be so in­tensely ex­pres­sive that he con­torts phrases, dis­torts mu­si­cal struc­ture, and fills his mu­sic-mak­ing with dis­tract­ing af­fec­ta­tions.”

Lang Lang

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