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< The Christmas Truce of 1914 | Main | 21st century music >

2008: The Year of Lang Lang

Posted at 10:18 AM on December 30, 2008 by Fred Child (4 Comments)

2008 was a great year for Gil Shaham, for Leila Josefowicz, for Gustavo Dudamel. The NY Phil went to North Korea, Valery Gergiev supported the Russian Army, Leonard Bernstein has had a big revival year in New York.

But no one in classical music has had a bigger year than the 26 year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang. In fact, Lang Lang's 2008 may be unique in the history of musical personalities.

You can listen to our "2008, Year of Lang Lang" feature (produced by PT's Chris Danforth) by clicking here.


Let's run down the list:

In February, Lang Lang played live at the Grammy Awards, a duet with Herbie Hancock.

He released his autobiography...wait, make that his SECOND autobiography in eight languages. (This in the year he turned 26.)

In June, he played in front of a Vienna palace with the Vienna Philharmonic, a concert celebrating the end of the 2008 European Soccer Championships.

He played a concert in Central Park with the New York Philharmonic, for an audience of about 60,000. (He later tried to sell the red Steinway from that concert on eBay to raise money for earthquake relief in China. There were no bids, but Lang Lang raised $3 million for Red Cross earthquake relief by playing benefit concerts.)


He was on the Sesame Street float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. (If you follow the link, Lang Lang is wearing the red scarf.)

He played for a live global audience of...what, maybe four billion?...during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. ("It's kind of like you're playing in the universe," said Lang Lang.)

He created a foundation to support young musicians, with the goal of doling out $5 million dollars a year.

He got his own line of Adidas sneakers. (Even after I read news reports about this, I didn't believe it. But I am now the proud owner of a pair of black, size 10 Lang Lang Gazelle shoes. Golden graphic of Lang Lang on the outside of each heel.)


And to top it off, Lang Lang made People Magazine's list of the sexiest men alive, alongside Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Zac Efron, and Michael Phelps.

As we celebrate the New Year, and look back on 2008, this year's song is...Auld Lang Lang Syne.

Comments ( 4 )

Has there ever been a live concert that reached more people than Lang Lang at the opening ceremonies? (Besides C-Dan at the Turf Club, of course...)

Either in terms of raw population or in terms of share of global population. Did half of all humanity really watch this guy play the piano?

Leonard Bernstein at the Berlin Wall?

NY Phil in Central Park - that only claimed 800,000. Chump Change. That isn't even two thousandths of the audience that Lang Lang claims at the Olympics. Just over one hundreth of one percent of Lang Lang's audience.

Records are meant to be broken... but I Think this one will take a while.

Posted by Alex Coppock | December 31, 2008 8:34 AM

Lang Lang needs to mature as an artist before he is musically notable, not merely outrageous and startling.

Posted by SW Paul Mack | January 5, 2009 1:42 AM

You forgot to mention that he renewed his contract with DG, making it a condition thereof that the Company cancel their contract with Yundi Li. And that Lang Lang's concert contracts will now specify that any orchestra with which he performs may not invite Yundi Li to perform in the same season. I am sick of this tosh. Lang Lang may or may not have true qualities of heart and mind lurking behind the flying fingers, but I, for one, do not have time to waste waiting to find out. Recordings give us a cornucopia of truly great artists of yore to listen to, and there are a few, though these days not so many, unhappily, potentially great young artists who should be nurtured. I think it was Earl Wild who described Lang Lang as a circus act, and others, recently Andre Previn, have made similarly hard but true appraisals. This nonsense -- Lang Lang, Szymon Barto, Vanessa Mae, et al. -- does nothing but harm. We should move on.

Posted by Philip Amos | January 6, 2009 11:31 AM

Jan. 8: Listeners were asked about the Beethoven's 5th played by a pumped-up chamber orchestra. Most of us are on the way to work [I was], listening in the car, and you did not lose anything. Quite to the contrary, I heard little pieces [e.g. a few bars of a clarinet] much more clearly than ever before.With a full stereo set-up, at maximum appropriate volume, perhaps the dramatic loud elements might have lost some luster, but in my car with a good car system, it was a pleasure to hear the 5th on the way to work.

Posted by Jeff Taylor | January 8, 2009 12:53 PM

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