Return of the lovable pianist

Updated 2017-08-18 09:54:37 China Daily
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Lang Lang gives instructions to young musicians at an open master class on Monday at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Lang Lang, pianist.

Lang Lang gives instructions to young musicians at an open master class on Monday at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Lang Lang, pianist.

Lang Lang, who returns to the performance circuit in October after being indisposed for a few months, thrills fans with a master class in Beijing. Chen Jie reports.

'Wow! Incredible technique!" says Lang Lang as he stands up from his seat and walks to the boy who has just finished playing Liszt's La Campanella.

"It's crazy! Tell me how you do it? Once a guy suggested that I compete with a robot to see whose fingers are faster. Now, I think I should recommend you."

The pianist's comment relaxes the 14-year-old boy, who scratches his head and gives a shy smile.

Then Lang Lang, 35, says: "But that is too fast. It is a brisk and lively allegretto tempo, but do not hurry like you just did. Let's do it again."

Then the pianist sits beside the boy and guides him.

That night, Lang Lang was giving an open master class at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

His microphone was not working well at the start, so an elderly woman shouted: "Lang Lang! We cannot hear you!" The pianist then adjusted his microphone and said: "Is this OK?"

Lang Lang first talked a bit about piano education and took a few questions from the audience.

Then, he listened to pieces by four young musicians, ages 7, 11, 14 and 16, and gave comments and instructions.

It was not a serious class for Lang Lang, who was born in Northeast China, the home of many popular comedians. But he speaks like a comedian himself.

"When I teach young kids, I try to be funny because I know practice is boring. I try to make them love it," he says.

He says that most young Chinese musicians have good technique. But technique is not everything.

And he quotes one of his teachers, maestro Daniel Barenboim, who said: "I will not teach you technique, which you can improve by yourself. I just want to talk about music, the story or the feelings behind the scores."

Fans were eager to see Lang Lang as it was the first time he has appeared publicly in Beijing since his left arm was hurt in early April.

The inflammation was so severe that he had to cancel all his concerts, including one at the National Center for the Performing Arts in April.

It was a depressing time.

"I was anxious to return to the stage. I had to cancel one concert after another. The feeling was so bad."

During that time, many pianists shared their experiences with him and gave him advice, including his mentor Gray Graffman, who had to stop using his right hand at 50.

Fans also emailed him their good wishes.

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Lang Lang gives instructions to young musicians at an open master class on Monday at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Lang Lang, pianist.

Lang Lang gives instructions to young musicians at an open master class on Monday at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Lang Lang, pianist.

He tried sports initially, but it did not work.

"I could not stop using my left hand and could not shift focus from it. My right arm was once inflamed but I recovered quickly," he says.

"So, I really did not expect it to take for such a long time. I wanted to cry and thought that the inflammation would go away if my tears dropped on my left hand."

But the more he worried, the worse the inflammation got.

Finally, a doctor decided to tie up his left arm completely.

"I had nightmares. I was frightened that I would never play with my left hand again."

But the treatment worked. And Lang Lang finally calmed down and realized that it is time to slow down.

"I have not enjoyed family life for a long time. So, I returned to my hometown to see some old friends.

"Now, I won't play as many concerts as before.

"Everything has its natural cycle. You cannot resolve any problem overnight. Sometimes you have to let it be."

It will take him a few weeks to recover completely. But he is looking forward to a formal return. On Oct 4, Lang Lang will play Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with jazz musician Chick Corea and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

It will be Carnegie Hall's opening night gala for the coming season.

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