Saturday, 30 November 2013


The renowned Chinese pianist LANG LANG gave two concerts in Singapore in November 2013. In between his concerto performance with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and his solo recital, he spared some time to visit Steinway Gallery Singapore at Palais Renaissance on Friday 29 November 2013, where he met with members of the media and selected Steinway owners.

There was a lively session of interaction at the Breitling showroom, where the 31-year-old phenomenon, now considered by many as a global symbol of China's rise in the world, spoke on a number of topics.

Returning to Singapore

This was Lang Lang's 8th visit to Singapore. He remembered his first visit here when he was just 15 years old (in 1997) very well. He travelled here alone and performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 with the SSO conducted by Choo Hoey, who had spotted him after seeing a NHK video of him winning the Tchaikovsky Youth International Piano Competition in Japan. He best remembers the exceptional seafood here and people speaking Singlish, like, "How are you doing lah?".  

He has since returned in 1999 (Beethoven No.4 with SSO), 2002 (with the New York Philharmonic), 2005 (with The Philadelphia), 2007 (Solo recital at the Singapore Sun Festival), 2010 (Beethoven No.1 with SSO) and once more for a private event. 

The Lang Lang Foundation

His foundation was formed 5 years ago to promote young talents entering into the crowded world of concert pianists. There are presently 15 young pianists (from 9 to 14 years) under his tutelage, most of whom were spotted via Youtube and social media. Although they have their own teachers, he tries to conduct a masterclass once a week for his charges. He is proud of the fact that some of them have already performed in Carnegie Hall, and the foundation has some USD 2.7 million in its endowment fund. 

Young pianists in China

There are estimated to be some 50 million young people learning the piano in China. "Surely there must be some good ones!" he quipped. While the general standard of the playing has improved, he feels that it is not enough for them to remain in China. Many of them should get a chance to learn from the best in USA and Europe. As Chinese students work very hard, there is a good chance of success. As it is, he noted that almost 80% of music college and conservatory applicants were Chinese or Asian.

Lang Lang met with a larger audience at the Steinway Gallery itself. He was introduced by Mr Alexander Melcher who proclaimed that Steinway was the proud supporter of Lang Lang's musical activities around the world.

Wellness and Well-being

Sleep is one of Lang Lang's most important needs. "Get as much sleep as possible," he advised, "at least 7 or 8 hours every day". As modern living is already hectic as it is, he feels that one should not think too much and not generate negative energy. "Think beautiful things, like the beaches of Sentosa!" he added.

Before a concert, he tries not to get distracted. He takes no interviews on the day and avoids internet surfing. He like a lot of fruits and chocolate makes him happy. "Just don't take too much!" he warns. 

In his free time, he listens to hip hop and jazz, naming Kanye West, Herbie Hancock and Alicia Keys among his favourite performers. He occasionally tunes in to heavy metal such as Metallica and the Rolling Stones whenever he feels down. From listening to Italian and German opera, he has learnt new words in those languages.

He tries to avoid listening to too much piano music. "When I asked one young pianist what movies he has watched, all he could think of then was Bach Partitas," so I say, "Don't be a piano nerd!

Making mistakes

One young person asked him how he handled making mistakes on the piano. "Just pretend nothing happened!" he advised, "Don't stop playing and nobody will care anyway. We are all human beings who can make mistakes." 

"You can always blame the piano, as long as it isn't a Steinway!" he joked. Then he related the case of a lady pianist who fainted at the keyboard, and cautioned, "but you can only do that once!"

Lang Lang's operatic facial expressions.

What keeps Lang Lang going

"I always want to be better." is his credo. Do not be self-satisfied as that will lead to having no motivation. "I always want to keep a bit of hunger," was his parting shot.

Lang Lang with the folks at Steinway:
Alexander Melchers and Celine Goh.

This young lady had her iPhone autographed by Lang Lang!

People buying his CD and autobiography
makes Lang Lang happy.

Photogaphs by the kind courtesy of Steinway Gallery Singapore and Flame Communications.

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