As the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by both Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, Lang Lang knows how to captivate an audience. He talks rivalry, showmanship, and bringing piano playing to all four corners of the globe. Words by Syu Chen
I’ve played in my signature style since I was six years old – I tried to change it once, but it didn’t work. I believe playing the piano requires seriousness, but you also need to realise that it’s entertainment; you can’t just play music for two hours.
I think I’m an open person, but how you play does not depend on your personality. An introverted person can play the piano in a very extrovert way.
I was highly competitive in my childhood, and I used to fight to win every prize. Now I think the whole idea is silly. If you want something so bad, you won’t get it. In the real battle of life, it’s better to relax.
I have never pushed myself too much. You should do the things you feel comfortable doing, and are good at – instead of showing how strong you are to others. This kind of ostentation will never last, whereas solid skill always will.
I hold masterclasses around the world, and recently came back to Abu Dhabi for my second-ever class there. I was impressed to see two young Emirati students performing well. It’s interesting to me since I feel now the piano is really an international language. In every corner of the world, people play it.
Before this trip, I asked my followers on social media what food should I try in the UAE and most answers said “Stop eating, you are like a round ball!” But I love the sweets in the Middle East, and the lamb kebab is so tasty.
Going on a desert safari in Dubai was an extreme experience. Driving up 45-degree slopes and feeling like you are about to fall is very scary! Camel riding was much more fun. I like the way the camel suddenly stands up and you are high up with a nice view.