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Kultur „Art is not a racing game“
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21:12 21.04.2015
Von Jutta Rinas
Quelle: Philip Glaser/Detlef Schneider/Deutsche Grammophon
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Hannover

Lang lang, your profession is to play Classical Music. But what are you listening to in your private life? Only Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart, or other, non-classical music, too?

I listen mostly to classical music, but I also enjoy artists from other genres such as Alicia Keys or John Legend.

Also Heavy Metal? At the 2014 Grammies you have performed the Metallica song "One" in a new version together with the band. How did that come about?

This idea was presented to us by the Grammy team who were interested in bringing the Grammies to China. Metallica had just completed a tour there back then. So they asked us, if we were up for the idea and we both jumped on this experiment immediately. We had a fantastic time together.

How did you prepare for that performance? Metal rock seems to be a good distance away from your classical repertoire …

I must confess that I did not study the "The Handbook of Metal Rock". I thought the best way of approaching this was to get together with the band and let it flow.

And how did it work for you on stage? In the video you seem to be having a lot of fun and Metallica have praised the event, too. On the other hand, some critics have described it as two superstar acts merely playing side by side, not really connecting musically …

I think it went extremely well and Metallica thought so too. We had a blast! Of course there were many different opinions and lots of discussion about it. And that's exactly how it should be, shouldn't it?

You can often be heard taking excursions into other musical genres, performing „Happy“ with Pharrell Williams at the 2015 Grammies or improvising together with Herbie Hancock. Are those experiences influencing your classical interpretations, too?

Not in the sense that they inform me literally on how to phrase a Mozart Concerto, or what the tempo should be for a specific Beethoven Sonata. However, since these encounters have an impact on me as a person it will indirectly reflect my music making as well, I believe.

In another unexpected meeting you recorded a CD of Mozart concertos – your very first Mozart CD – with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. What did you learn from that pioneer of the historically authentic sound movement and how did that cooperation come about? It is said you were very keen to work with Harnoncourt.

We had both played together before and I had visited him in his home, where he showed me his historic instruments. We felt an instant musical connection and the wish to work and record Mozart with him grew over years. Nikolaus Harnoncourt shared countless ideas with me. One idea that impressed me especially was that you have to be totally free when you play Mozart. He even wanted me to phrase Mozart like Frank Sinatra would have done it.

In your upcoming Hannover recital you will be playing all four Chopin Scherzi. Chopin means much to you and you have already recorded many of his pieces – why not those four?

I must live with a piece for a long time before I can record it. Both the Chopin etudes and the Concerti were my companions since my early childhood. So, I lived one or two decades with them before I recorded these works. I am getting to know the Scherzi really well now, as they form part of my current recital program. Slowly but surely I am developing and appetite to record them. We will see.

How important are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram to you? You not only announce upcoming concerts but also teach your fans Chinese on Twitter, in a series called „Mandarin Monday“.

I totally embrace the new media. I enjoy being in touch with friends and fans and think the new media offer good opportunities to reach out to new audiences, too.

Is it a necessity for being a Classical Music superstar to be this active in modern communication media?

Not necessarily. I think it depends on each artist. You have to like it and have a sense for it. There are also wonderful artists with great careers who are less active in the digital world.
In your published biography there are intense descriptions of how much your childhood days very submitted to the goal of becoming a Number-One pianist. You have achieved that goal.

Do you feel satisfied with it?

I no longer think in competitive terms like becoming the "number one". Such a thing doesn't exist in the arts. When I moved to the United States to study at Curtis, my dear friend and teacher Gary Graffman opened up a whole new world to me. He taught me many things, for example that the arts are not a racing game.

You are performing 120 concerts a year around the world, one every third day. When do you find time to practice – and what instrument do you practise on?

You don't always need a piano to practice. Traveling in the car or on the plane can be perfect practice time just reading the scores. When I am on tour I try to get around two hours of practice a day and I can luckily find a practice room at the concert venue or even at my hotel.

Is there any time left for hobbies? You are said to be a soccer fan, rooting for Bayern Munich! Can you follow their matches at all?

I am a huge soccer fan. Not sure, if you could say it's hobby, since I don't play actively. I have my hands pretty full making music and in my spare time I like to meet friends and do nice things such as going to a museum, watch a movie or just walking in a park.

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