At the conclusion of Goethe's Faust, his aging hero looks out on the world with a note of satisfaction. "I could almost wish this moment to last forever, it is so beautiful."
That is exactly how pianist Lang Lang played the slow movement of the Chopin E-minor piano concerto Sunday with the Phoenix Symphony. He lingered over it, stretching its already vague rhythmic drive down to a near halt, and stopping the audience's breath with it.
Lang Lang, the hotshot Chinese pianist who’s an international sensation, is giving back to the world. On Monday at New York’s Town Hall, the rockstar classical musician announced the formation of a new foundation to help music education programs. He introduced three 8-year-olds who’ve already won scholarships of $2,400 apiece; in turn, they each sat down at the grand piano on stage and played like they were at the Van Cliburn competition. The audience was composed of 900 school children, some of whom may have never seen a piano before or heard one played live.
Imagine a classical performer able to generate the excitement of Elvis or the Beatles, and you will be getting close to the buzz surrounding the young Chinese pianist Lang Lang. At 26, with his wild hair, secret taste for pop and rap, and an enormous natural charm, Lang Lang has the kind of presence that goes beyond the rock star model, all the way back to Franz Liszt, the 19th-century pianist who earned such wild adoration from his fans that women tore his gloves and handkerchiefs apart for souvenirs.
26-year old classical pianist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lang Lang launched his International Music Foundation in New York on Monday. Lang Lang created the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, aiming to sharing his excitement for music with children. Educational programs for music students play a critical role in the Foundation's mission. But the aim is much broader. Lang Lang wants to expose children of all ages to the world's greatest music, regardless of whether they are students of music.
Details are still being worked out, but the pair intends to visit at least 10 markets in the United States, according to the 26-year old pianist. The trek would likely visit outdoor venue settings and concert halls. Although nothing is confirmed, the pair has already been approached to do a concert at the O2 Arena in London, Lang Lang says.
He came, he played, he conquered. Nine hundred schoolkids - the captive audience at Lang Lang's performance yesterday at Town Hall - slipped into silence, mesmerized by a giant screen above the keyboard showing his fingers at play.
The 26-year-old pianist - maybe you saw him on "Sesame Street" with Elmo, or the Grammys with Herbie Hancock, or the opening of the Beijing Olympics with, well, everyone - was there to announce his international music foundation and introduce the first three scholarship winners, ages 8 and 9.
NEW YORK, USA, 20 October 2008 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and classical pianist Lang Lang is expanding his commitment to children’s rights by creating an international foundation to encourage children’s love of music. Launched today at a special performance for children at The Town Hall in New York, the Lang Lang International Music Foundation is dedicated to expanding young audiences and inspiring the next generation of musicians.
"I was 2 years old," says Lang Lang (pronounced "long long") by phone from New York. "It was a cartoon called 'The Cat Concerto.' I was amazed that Tom could extend his fingers so much on the keys. He was playing Liszt's 'Hungarian Rhapsody,' which I like to play now."
All of these have become routine occurrences in an extraordinary career that began with Lang as a child prodigy in northeast China and now includes performances all over the world.