What was Lang Lang’s first musical inspiration? Tom and Jerry.
Lang Lang’s story – Journey of a Thousand Miles – is one of Monkey King as his conqueror of fears, almost inhumane practice schedules (yes, even talents need to practise.. a lot..), big sacrifices by hopeful parents and the immense pressures they face, a child’s desperate longing for his mother, and how some luck always comes in handy. This child-prodigy-to-pianist-superstar story is dramatic and inspiring, not only offering a peek into the mind of an imaginative, passionate individual, but also teachers, politics in music, and differing musical and societal cultures. All these set in a very personal, easy-to-read form.
And of course, musical tidbits that should not be missed, such as:
Just as if I became overly conscious of the act of breathing, I would interfere with the natural flow of my breath, if I became overly conscious of the act of playing, I would interfere with my natural instincts and ability. “It is a matter of allowing yourself to feel a flow that is both inside the music and inside you,” he told me. Try not to try, I kept telling myself. And little by little, I got the idea.
- Lang Lang reflecting on advice from Professor Zhao Ping-Guo, his second teacher at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music
As I played, I felt that he wasn’t judging me but was, rather, appreciating me. He wasn’t looking for what I did wrong but was acknowledging what I did right. When I was through, he had comments about certain phrasings, but he presented them as suggestions rather than commands. He was gentle, and in that sense he reminded me of Professor Zhu. He motivated not by fear but with love – love of the music, love of his proteges, love of the very act of teaching.
- Lang Lang on Gary Graffman, his teacher at Curtis
Follow your own path, be your own man
- Christoph Eschenbach to Lang Lang, on negative critiques
Daniel (Barenboim) taught me that emotions are indispensable ingredients in performing music but that overwrought emotionality can be injurious. The first job of the interpreter is to understand the structure of a piece. Structure is all.
- Lang Lang