The audacity of youth and dazzling technical skills have combined to make the artistry of 21-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang one of the hottest topics in the classical music world. Lang is "the future of classical music," breathlessly claims the once austere record label Deutsche Grammophon.
It's not easy being hailed classical music's equivalent to the next Michael Jordan, but as bright as the spotlight has been, Lang refuses to blink. "Life will never be so easy or so difficult as it is now," said Lang by phone from his home in Philadelphia.
He performs tonight in Bowling Green State University's Kobacker Hall.
"I like challenges, and overall, the controversy has been a good thing. All of my mentors have told me that I need to face these things now, early in my career. There are many areas in which I still need to improve. If I hear negative things and decide that they are right, then I need to change what I am doing. But I always do my truthful thing for music, no matter what."
What has set Lang's critics off in particular is the pianist's approach to the Romantic repertoire. They suggest that Lang's music making is undisciplined, overshadowed by the raw horsepower of his technique.
Lang says he is simply following his musical intuitions. "My ideas drive my technique, not the other way around," he said.
"If you want to express the proper musical energy, you must keep close to the composer's intensions. But with the Romantics, it's hard to find limits. Maybe there aren't any," he said.
Lang is open to all the options that come his way. Looking to popularize classical music, Lang has appeared on Good Morning America and Jay Leno's Tonight Show. These also proved controversial, he said. Purists complained that Lang was slumming, degrading classical music.
"It's a shame that this great music is not part of the mainstream. But how can it be if people don't hear it? Every pianist in the country should be reaching out like this," he said.
Lang Lang plays the music of Haydn, Schubert, Tan Dun, and others at 8 tonight in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center. Tickets range from $18 to $34. Information: 419-372-8171 or 1-800-589-2224.
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