Lang Lang

Lang LangOne of the few true classical superstars who can sell out a large venue, Lang Lang is a cultural ambassador as well as a tremendous pianist.

Born: June 14, 1982, in Shenyang, China.

Career highlights

  • 1999: He performs the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 as a last minute substitute with the Chicago Symphony. A star is born.
  • 2001: He makes his Carnegie Hall debut and sells out the Royal Albert Hall in his debut at the BBC Proms. Other acclaimed debuts follow.
  • 2006: He performs on the soundtrack for The Painted Veil and for the Chinese film The Banquet (music composed by Tan Dun).
  • 2008: His performance at the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games is watched by an estimated four billion people.
  • 2010: He is named official ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo and plays at its opening ceremony.

Fun Facts


  • Lang Lang plays Flight of the Bumblebee on an iPad at Davies Symphony Hall.
    Media boy: Lang Lang has appeared on every major TV network and in a wide variety of news and lifestyle magazines, and has played for dozens of political dignitaries. He has promotional contracts worthy of a sports star: global brand ambassador of Sony Electronics, Audi Automobiles and with a model of black and gold Adidas sneakers. He is the only musician ever to have his name attached to a model of Steinway Pianos. He was also the ambassador of the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the Olympic Games, he's played at the World Cup (2010) and the Euro Cup finals (2008)
  • Role model and evangelist: The Lang Lang International Music Foundation was created to further Lang Lang's goals of inspiring the next generations of pianists, building audiences among the young through live performance, and furthering music education through technology. Lang Lang gives recitals for charitable causes, such as his 2008 UNICEF concert in Central Park, New York, and in under-served areas.
  • Early life: In his autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles, Lang Lang is remarkably honest about his struggle to live up to the expectations of his hyper-driven father who once, apparently seriously, suggested that his son commit suicide. Understandably, this put the 9-year-old off music, until his love was rekindled by his mother, a caring teacher, and Mozart's music.
  • Rule buster: Lang Lang has bothered some music critics with his overt showmanship and his appearance, which includes a spiky hairdo and Versace-designed concert clothes.
  • Technology buff: Bay Area Lang Lang fans are well aware of the pianist's interest in technology. At a San Francisco Symphony concert in 2010, he took a few minutes to play Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee on an iPad.

SFCV Articles Featuring Lang Lang

January 18, 2011

Calling Elvis, Receiving a Musician

In a delightful recital Tuesday night, Lang Lang — probably the best pianist around, and once likened to Elvis in stature — presented a different pianist, who was also subtle, self-effacing, while exhibiting the highest level of artistry.

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October 20, 2009

Pulling Out All the Stops, and Then Some

This new release of piano trios by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov features three virtuoso musicians delivering gushy music gushily. In a way, this likely was the way this music was played in its own day, minus emotive restraint. This can almost be considered to be a recording as a historical study, free of the sometimes exaggerated objectivity of contemporary performances.

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September 8, 2009

A Lang Lang Primer

As he prepares to open the San Francisco Symphony’s 2009-2010 season Wednesday with Prokofiev’s challenging Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26, in Davies Symphony Hall, 27-year-old Lang Lang seems to have embraced his superstar pianist reputation — and run with it.

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December 9, 2008

Titanic Pianist, With Icebergs Lurking

Now, at 26, he is perhaps the most famous pianist in the world, but still with some of that Hanna Barbera devil in him: a never-ending rivalry between a pompous cat and a clever mouse, or, more precisely, between a sublime artist and a self-indulgent young man whose attention is not always on the task at hand.

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