Music ambassador delivers universal message

Updated: 2012-10-11 10:54

By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York (China Daily)

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Music ambassador delivers universal message

In recent years, Chinese pianist Lang Lang has risen to fame in both China and the West, playing with top American orchestras and appearing in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People list in 2009.

After his performance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was watched by 5 billion people, The New Yorker deemed him the "world's ambassador of the keyboard". And in 2011, he performed for President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao at the White House State Dinner.

This weekend he joins Sony chairman Sir Howard Stringer at New York City's 92Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center, to talk about his career and thoughts on the future of classical music, followed by a brief performance.

"I think this is a good chance to bring the concepts of classical music to audiences," Lang Lang told China Daily. "I would express the idea to all audiences that classical music is a universal language, no matter where the artist comes from. Classical music is a way of expressing passion and love to the world. Audiences may be surprised at some of my experiences, but at the same time, I believe they will understand."

The pianist recently performed at the inauguration of Sonoma State University's Weill Hall performing arts center. Later this month he will play a charity concert at Carnegie Hall for the Lang Lang International Music Foundation. The performance will be hosted by Emmy Award-winning actor Alec Baldwin. Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell will also appear.

"Lang Lang has not only captivated the world through his amazing musicianship," said Hanna Arie-Gaifman, director of 92Y's Tisch Center for the Arts. "He is a great spokesperson for the importance of classical music education, and he brings his passion for music and education to action through his work with UNICEF, through his own foundation, other philanthropic pursuits and always through music. He is aware, and makes people aware, of the value of classical music."

Lang Lang counts charity work among his duties.

"I think philanthropy is part of my career," he said. "It is about people's value and attitude to the world. I'm also interested in education."

In 2011, he launched Lang Lang Music World, an arts complex split between Shenzhen and Chongqing in China that offers offers music education and concerts by young musicians. He is also an International Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund.

Lang Lang came to the US as a teenager, and has been deeply influenced by American culture, he said. And although he is commonly labeled a Chinese musician, he said he prefers to identify himself as an artist who happens to be Chinese.

"I hope the music itself is what the audience will focus on," he said. "It's changing now. Western audiences are getting more and more interested in Chinese art and music, and China is getting stronger. People want to know about the cultural background. But I think cultures have influenced each other throughout history. There was never a one-sided influence. Now I perform around the world, and I talk with people from everywhere."

(China Daily 10/11/2012 page10)