Chinese Pianist Lang Lang is to be profiled on ITV1's flagship arts programme, the South Bank Show. The pianist is already a mega-star in his native China as well as a Unicef Ambassador and 'global ambassador' for Rolex and Audi. He records exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon (including a recent disc of Beethoven Concertos) and is credited with bringing classical music to a wider audience both at home and across the globe.
The press release issued by ITV continues: 'Lang Lang (which translates as Brilliant Man) is the first Chinese pianist ever to be engaged by the Berlin Philharmonic and other major western orchestras. His reputation for astonishing showmanship, incredible technique and a poetic sensitivity has established him as on of the most outstanding pianists of the moment - and has earned him rock star status in his homeland.'
'Lang Lang was one of the first generation of Chinese children to have been brought up with classical music thanks to the ending of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. Prior to this the performance of 'western' music was strictly forbidden. Lang Lang genuinely wanted to play the piano, thanks in no small part to a Tom and Jerry cartoon he caught on TV one day in which Tom crashed his way through Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody. His father bought him a piano (which cost half a year's salary) and began the three year old with lessons.'
'The South Bank Show follows the breakneck speed of Lang Lang's schedule as he jets between Beijing and Shanghai; through to his most audacious project at the celebrated Beijing International Festival, where he performs 10 piano concertos in a matter of days; and the opening of Beijing's brand new concert hall at the new National Theatre – not to mention performing in the UK on the Royal Variety Show.'
Lang's Festival Hall recital in November showed, however, how he still divides critics and audiences. While the concert itself ended in a standing ovation, in our review we detected 'a gulf between his dexterity and his interpretative gifts', another critic called it a 'bravura display of preening... largely unassuaged by any element of good taste'. Whether or not the film will look into this dichotomy and discuss the 'Bang Bang' tag some have given the pianist will have to be seen. Whatever the case, it's always encouraging to see classical music encroaching like this into the mainstream UK media.
The programme will be broadcast on Sunday 10 February 2008 at a time that is to be confirmed. Presented by Melvyn Bragg, it will also be available as both a podcast (audio) and vodcast (video) from the South Bank Show's website.
External Link: The South Bank Show
By Hugo Shirley