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Classical music

Chinese piano star Lang Lang ‘200 per cent’ confident of coming back from arm injury

Shenyang-born Hong Kong resident confirms tendonitis was result of work and practice ‘overload’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 December, 2017, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 December, 2017, 11:18pm

China’s top pianist said on Friday night that he was “200 per cent”confident of a full recovery from his arm injury, and hoped to make a comeback next summer.

Lang Lang, one of the most sought-after pianists on the global classical music circuit, confirmed his left arm had been injured since last March and said he was “halfway through recovery”.

Speaking in Hong Kong, he said it was an “overload” of work and practice that caused the inflamed tendon.

“The recovery is going very well and the inflammation is over. Now it’s time for the muscle to rebuild itself,” he told the media on Friday night after an event at the University of Hong Kong ahead of his receipt of an honorary doctorate on Saturday.

“I have started practising gradually, 30 minutes every day, without putting a lot of strength into it.”

He revealed that he put a cast on the injured arm every night, specifically the tendon from elbow to wrist, and that he had used both Western and Chinese remedies.

“Fortunately it’s just inflammation and not [damaged] nerves. The best way is to let it heal itself, and it really works,” he said.

It was the first time the 35-year-old Shenyang native confirmed the injury since he abruptly cancelled a performance with the world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra last month. Lang, a permanent Hong Kong resident, was there to mark the 20th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.

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Simon Rattle, the Berlin orchestra’s chief conductor, had told the Hong Kong press Lang got injured over-practising Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

And Lang did not dispute that.

“He is right,” he said. “I was practising that piece for a concert in Paris commemorating the end of world war one,” he recalled, referring to the famous work written for a pianist who lost his right arm during the war.

Lang said it was “absolutely a wrong move” to accept the invitation as he had just finished a recital in the United States in March when he had not fully recovered from a cold. It was “overload” that caused the injury, he said.

He said he was depressed for a while when the injury hit, but “it’s passed, it’s getting better now”.

“After a while, I began to realise: it’s not that bad at all. Being an artist, sometimes you need more time. Toward every challenge or difficulty, I try to turn it into something positive,” he said.

Lang said he was “200 per cent confident” that he would return to his highest level, and that he planned to return to the stage next summer.

“It depends on whether I feel 100 per cent recovered. I don’t want to have [the injury] again!” he said.

Speaking after getting the doctorate on Saturday, Lang said he was “very grateful” for the recognition from HKU and that he hoped “to do more meaningful things for Hong Kong”.

The star pianist revealed plans in the future to come to the city more often to foster musical exchanges.

“I would like to bring my students from Shenzhen to Hong Kong more often, to have something like an exchange programme between the mainland and Hong Kong, to learn from each other,” he said.

“Through music, I would bring the mainland and Hong Kong tighter and closer.”

But when asked about his view on tension between Hong Kong and the mainland, Lang hesitated and described it as a “deep and profound issue”, without elaborating.

Returning to his injury, Lang said the “torturous” and expensive experience had given him the idea to start a fund covering medical costs for injured musicians.

The busy pianist said he would continue to perform, but might reduce by half the number of concerts he plays, to get enough rest in between. He said he played more than 100 concerts per year in the past.