Lang Lang’s very first musical influence came, believe it or not, from Tom and Jerry: barely two years old, he falls in love with the piano while watching “The Cat Concerto.” It costs his parents half a year’s salary to buy an instrument, but it turns out that the boy has talent, winning his first competition at five. His father decides at this point that his future is to become the best pianist in China, resigns from his job as a policeman, and because of the better educational opportunities in the capital city, moves with his son to Beijing in 1991. The two of them live in a room with no furniture other than a bunk bed and a piano and share a single sink and toilet with five families. His mother stays behind to earn money. However, the family drama soon reaches its low point: Lang Lang’s piano teacher dismisses him for “lack of talent,” after which his father tells the nine-year-old to kill himself. But thankfully the going gets smoother: Lang Lang’s love for his instrument proves to be stronger than anything else. His father, too, becomes more lenient and accompanies his son everywhere until he is twenty-four. Since then he has continued to manage the Lang Lang business while the now-world-class pianist travels with his mother. The two of them have a lot of catching up to do...
© Ulla Pilz - Radio Österreich 1


  • Born in 1982 in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, first piano lessons at the age of three

  • Starting 1991 studies in Beijing, starting 1997 in Philadelphia, graduates in 2002

  • 1999 fills in at the last minute for André Watts at the renowned Ravinia Festival near Chicago. His interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto kicks off the meteoric rise of his international concert career

  • 2001–02 debuts at Carnegie Hall, the BBC Proms, Wigmore Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, and with the London and New York philharmonics. Since then cooperation with an endless list of world-class concert halls and orchestras

  • Also the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Leonard Bernstein Award, a Grammy, and three ECHO Klassik Awards. In 2015 GQ names him Man of the Year in the Social Media category

  • Since 2004 Lang Lang advocates for children’s causes as a UNICEF ambassador

  • 2006 plays at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony at Munich’s Olympic Stadium. In 2008 reaches an audience of billions when he performs at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing

  • Also in 2008, Lang Lang is only twenty-six when he publishes his autobiography Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story

  • In addition to his concerts and recordings, the pianist frequently finds time to advocate for traditional Chinese music, give master classes, and offer his musical support to numerous children and young people

  • In spring 2017 he cancels his concerts due to tendinitis in his left arm; he has since had to extend this forced hiatus to over a year and is planning his comeback for summer 2018

Did you know?

  • Lang Lang is the most-often-googled classical musician. His name is searched around fifty times as often as the number two on the list, Anna Netrebko.

  • During an official visit of Chinese president Hu Jintao to the U.S., Lang Lang performs at the White House with a program that includes the Chinese song “My Motherland.” This creates a scandal as the piece is viewed as a work of anti-American propaganda.

  • After playing for the queen the second time, he enthusiastically tells a journalist that “she’s sweet somehow. In fact she’s very sweet.”

  • When he turns thirty, Lang Lang tells even the media that he’d like to have a girlfriend. Now, at thirty-five, he is in a relationship with an unknown countrywoman. The Asian tabloids even speculate about an engagement or a secret marriage.

  • In China Lang Lang enjoys the status of a rock star: it is estimated that because of him, around 50 million Chinese children have started learning the piano, an instrument that had up to then been largely frowned upon in the country as “decadent.”

  • On his website Lang Lang describes himself as a pianist, educator, philanthropist, and ambassador for the arts who is bringing classical music into the 21st century with new technology, and who builds bridges between Eastern and Western culture.

  • Despite his forced hiatus, Lang Lang plays at Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night Gala in October 2017, entrusting the part of his injured left hand to his fourteen-year-old pupil Maxim Lando.