NPR logo

Lang Lang's Journey to Beethoven

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/10060309/10060315" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Lang Lang's Journey to Beethoven

Lang Lang's Journey to Beethoven

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/10060309/10060315" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Meanwhile, a different kind of bow is catching on in China, the kind used in Western classical music. One hundred forty-two factories turn out musical instruments there, and more than 40 million Chinese kids are studying classical violin and piano.

A few years ago, one of those piano students was Lang Lang. That's L-A-N-G, L-A-N-G , but pronounced long, long. Now, he's a professional and a big sensation in classical music. He's known for his fast fingers. He was inspired to master piano, he says by a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon - the one where Tom the cat pounds out a Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt, with paws flying in all directions. Today, Lang Lang still plays it.

(Soundbite of "Hungarian Rhapsody")

ROBERTS: Lang Lang got his big break in 1999. He was just 17 when he got a phone call asking if he could fill in for veteran pianist Andre Watts. His performance was grand enough to launch his career. Since then, Lang Lang has impressed the classical world with his dazzling technique and charisma.

Sometimes, as his fingers plunge to the final chord, he leaps to his feet. Critics wonder if he might be overdoing it, but audiences go wild.

(Soundbite of piano music)

(Soundbite of applause)

ROBERTS: Now that Lang Lang is beyond his whiz kid years, he says fast fingers are important, but technique isn't all that matters.

Mr. LANG LANG (Pianist): The main focus is on the hands and the notes, but then, you know, after you're sets on the keys, you need to using your imagination not just to make up things, but I think, in order to play piano you need to have a creative mind.

ROBERTS: Lang Lang continues to stretch. Today, he releases his first Beethoven CD, "The Piano Concertos 1 & 4," an intricate give-and-take between piano and orchestra.

(Soundbite of "Piano Concertos 1 & 4")

ROBERTS: Lang Lang's concert calendar is booked through 2010, he has a major record contract - rare in the world of classical music - and he practices on an old piano that once belonged to his idol, Vladimir Horowitz. Not bad for a career that started with a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon.

To hear Lang Lang in concert and also in our studios, go to npr.org/music.

(Soundbite of piano music)

ROBERTS: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.