GRAMMY-nominated classical pianist and GRAMMY Cultural Ambassador to China Lang Lang recently participated in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series. Before an intimate audience at the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, Lang Lang discussed his efforts to make music education fun, learning how to improvise onstage from GRAMMY winner Herbie Hancock and performing with GRAMMY winners Metallica on the 56th GRAMMY Awards, among other topics. Lang Lang also performed a brief set featuring performances of Li Huanzhi's "Spring Festival Overture" and Mozart's "Sonata No. 5 In G Major."
"In the beginning I thought heavy metal people are probably very cool and they probably don't care much [about logistics]," said Lang Lang on preparing for his 56th GRAMMY performance with Metallica. "And then I spoke with [drummer] Lars [Ulrich] and he's so precise … he's like a conductor, like a maestro. And I'm like, 'Wow, heavy metal is serious stuff'."
A native of Shenyang, China, Lang Lang began taking piano lessons at age 3. In 1991, when he was 9 years old, Lang Lang relocated with his father to Beijing where he studied at the Central Music Conservatory under Professor Zhao Ping-Guo. In 1993 he won the Beijing-based Xing Hai Cup Piano Competition and the following year won first place at the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists in Germany. Four years later, at age 15, he began studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with American classical pianist Gary Graffman.
Lang Lang's repertoire includes traditional and contemporary Chinese works, along with Western works by composers including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky, among others. He has released six albums that have hit No. 1 on Billboard's Top Classical Albums chart, including Memory (2006) The Magic Of Lang Lang (2008) and Liszt: My Piano Hero (2011). In 2008 Lang Lang performed at the Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing. He earned his first career GRAMMY nomination for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (With Orchestra) for Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 4 for 2007.
On Jan. 26 Lang Lang joined Metallica onstage at the 56th GRAMMY Awards for a performance of their GRAMMY-winning song "One." The pianist also paid tribute to the late Van Cliburn during the telecast's In Memoriam segment.
Lang Lang is currently in the midst of an international tour with dates scheduled through May.
Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include The Drop: Carlene Carter (April 15), The Drop: Mary Gauthier (April 21) and Spotlight: Hurray For The Riff Raff (April 28).