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Pianist Lang to give free show

by Chiho Iuchi

Chinese pianist Lang Lang will give a special performance at an event by UNICEF in Tokyo’s Odaiba district on Sept. 21.

Born in 1982 in Shenyang, northeast China, Lang was introduced to piano at 2 years old via the cartoon TV show “Tom and Jerry,” in which a piano-playing Tom awakened him to Western classical music.

Lang followed a child-prodigy path, winning the Shenyang piano competition and giving his first public recital at 5, entering the Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music at 9 and then moving to the United States for further study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Lang’s break into stardom came at age 17 when he was surprisingly called upon as a substitute at the “Gala of the Century” concert, in which he played Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has played sold-out recitals and concerts in many cities worldwide since, including collaborations with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and top American orchestras, under the baton of maestros, such as Yuri Temirkanov, Seiji Ozawa and Zubin Metha.

Lang’s performance style of exaggerated mannerisms and facial expressions has been criticized as too showy, but supporters say the style is powerful and dramatic.

In 2008, Lang played Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock at the 2008 Grammy Awards, which led to the two going on a world tour.

As a symbol of the youth and future of China, Lang performed at the opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and most recently he has been chosen as an official ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

With a keen interest in child development and the important role that music can play in children’s lives, Lang was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2004.

The upcoming event, which is part of UNICEF’s “Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS” campaign, will provide a chance to catch a Lang performance in Japan, since his dates here with the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra are sold out.

Unite for Children Special Stage will take place at Mediage in Odaiba, Tokyo, on Sept. 21 from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (03) 5789-2016 or visit www.unicef.or.jp/campaign/051025/