Lang Lang, Live in Studio 4A

Chinese Piano Prodigy Makes Kennedy Center Debut

Piano prodigy Lang Lang, just 20 years old, describes playing the piano — touching the keys — as an electrical force.

One reviewer said of a recent Lang Lang recital: "He created such a gut-level excitement that the audience responded with almost primitive intensity."

He's making his first appearance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where he'll perform the world premiere of Eight Memories in Water Color by Chinese composer Tan Dun.

Tan Dun rose to international fame after winning an Academy Award in 2001 for his score to the mystical martial arts film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Lang Lang and his father, Gorin Lang, recently joined NPR's John Ydstie in Studio 4A to talk about Western music, traditional Chinese music and the meeting between the two. Gorin Lang is an expert player of the traditional Chinese violin, called the er hu.

Lang Lang started on the piano at age 3, and held his first concert at age 5 in northern China. He came to the U.S. six years ago, and has become something of a phenomenon. His parents supported his music career from the beginning, and father and son moved to Philadelphia in Lang Lang's mid-teens so he could continue his studies with some of the world's best tutors.

His big break came at 15, when he amazed audiences at the Ravinia Festival's Gala of the Century in August 1999. Pianist Andre Watts fell ill and Lang Lang was asked to step in at the last minute.

Lang Lang is well known for his technical skill, but also for his dramatic presentation. He plays with an almost unbridled energy and intensity.

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