Born to play piano

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2011, 12:00am


Pianist Lang Lang has had a glittering classical music career. His remarkable journey, which has seen him perform everywhere from New York's Central Park to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, began in 1982 in Shenyang.

Lang Lang, an ethnic Manchu, was born and raised in the city. The son of famous erhu player Lang Guoren began his piano studies at the age of three with Professor Zhu Yafen of the Shenyang Conservatory of Music. He won the Shenyang Piano Competition at five, gave his first public performance shortly afterwards - and the rest is history.

In recent years, that history has also seen him forge a deep connection with Hong Kong, where he has long been a favourite and has given numerous concerts. He became a Hong Kong resident in 2006 as the first person to be admitted under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, after receiving an invitation to apply from Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

'I'm really happy to arrive in Hong Kong,' he said at the time, adding that he liked Hong Kong because it was a 'super-energetic city' with a good audience for classical music. 'I have had many opportunities to obtain foreign passports. This is good because I can keep my identity as a Chinese citizen.'

It was at the age of nine that Lang Lang took his first steps away from Shenyang, enrolling at Beijing's prestigious Central Music Conservatory. It wasn't long before he started to turn heads, making his debut at Beijing Concert Hall at 14 and playing as a soloist at the China National Symphony Orchestra's first concert, watched by former president Jiang Zemin. His fame went global in 2001 when he sold out his first performance at New York's Carnegie Hall at the age of 18.

That was followed by a triumphant return home at Beijing's Great Hall of the People and a debut at the BBC Proms at London's Royal Albert Hall. He has since performed for such high-profile figures as President Hu Jintao, US President Barack Obama, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. He has delighted audiences at the Olympics, the 2008 Grammy Awards and the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. In 2009 Time magazine named him among its 100 most influential people in the world.

Despite his punishing touring and recording schedule, Lang Lang is also a tireless charity worker, including a role as a Unicef goodwill ambassador, and works as a mentor to the next generation of musicians. In 2008 he created the Lang Lang International Music Foundation to provide young talents with support and encouragement. He has also launched his first schools, called Lang Lang Music World, in Shenzhen and Chongqing. It's a lot to take on for one young man from Shenyang. But he says: 'I'm quite energetic. I rest for eight hours a day and I spend the rest of the time doing something. It's pretty crazy, but it's fun.'