Pianist Lang Lang unveils 15-city China tour as COVID-19 restrictions ease
Lifting spirits
Published: Mar 16, 2021 07:08 PM
China's virtuoso pianist Lang Lang will embark on a 15-city domestic tour for his new album Bach: Goldberg Variations on April 2. The album presents some of the most difficult pieces in Bach's repertoire in a great variety of styles, the pianist said at an announcement ceremony on Monday.  

Lang Lang performs at an announcement ceremony in Beijing on Monday for his upcoming <em>Bach: <em>Goldberg Variations</em></em> tour. Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

Lang Lang performs at an announcement ceremony in Beijing on Monday for his upcoming Bach: Goldberg Variations tour. Photos: Li Hao/Global Times

Lang will perform two-hour solo concerts without any intermissions in 15 Chinese cities, including Lang's hometown of Shenyang in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, with help from cultural company Poly Theatre Management.  

"Bach is the world's greatest composer, the only one," the 38-year-old pianist told the Global Times. Lang rose to fame by playing the great romantic composers, but "playing Bach has been my dream since the age of 10," he said. 

"It is challenging," Lang admitted, noting that he always wanted to produce the Goldberg Variations album as a "gift to myself." At first, it was supposed to be his 24th birthday gift, but Lang put it off to "record Beethoven first." He thought about it again at age 30, but he decided to tackle Mozart first. 

Later in 2017, an arm injury forced him to cancel several concerts and kept him off stage for a year and three months. 

Marathon, not a sprint 

"That [injury] made me calm down and adjust to a new life," said the musician, who was used to performing hundreds of concerts a year before the injury. He was encouraged and cared for by German-Korean pianist Gina Alice Redlinger, who he married later in 2019, as he recovered from the career-threatening injury.   

"I always thought life was a sprint and I ran so hard all the time: The faster, the better," he recalled. 

"But I was wrong. I reviewed my life and career. Life is a marathon and up to the age of 35 was just the first chapter. You can always improve bit by bit," he said.

"Some 20 years after I first played Bach, I finally gathered the courage to perform his music on stage. That is the charm of classical music. The longer you spend on a certain work, the more you will get from it."

For Lang, performing the Goldberg Variations was not just a dream for himself, but also a kind of "medicine that makes life better: healing people and uniting and encouraging them to be better, especially at a time when the world is still fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic."

Before releasing the album in September 2020, Lang had performed the work in major Chinese cities such as Shenzhen and Hangzhou. 

"Bach's music always brings us strength and courage to face difficulties like the virus," he said. 

On Monday, China's cultural authorities eased COVID-19 restrictions across the country for cultural venues like cinemas and theaters, which no longer have to limit capacity. 

"As part of Lang Lang's Bach: Goldberg Variations global tour, the concerts in China's will lift people's spirits and be a sign of hope for concert halls around the world," said Guo Wenpeng, a representative from Poly Theatre Management.  

Lang Lang poses for a picture at the announcement. Photo: Li Hao/Global Times

Lang Lang poses for a picture at the announcement.

Passion for performing

Most concert halls in Europe and the US remain closed due to the anti-COVID-19 requirements. According to Lang Lang's estimate, an overseas tour can start in September at the earliest if everything goes well, with plans to play in Berlin, New York and Paris. 

"The ongoing pandemic has been a disaster for the music industry," said Lang.

"Many of my friends, mostly professionals, have lost their jobs and their chance to perform on stage. It is something they have never been through before."

Virtuoso Gary Graffman, Lang Lang's teacher, told him that in all his 92 years, "Carnegie Hall was never closed for a year, even during the most difficult times of World War II."

Lang Lang said that in 2020 he still took every chance to perform such as at some small gatherings among friends. 

"I don't want to lose the passion for the stage," he said. 

In his eyes, how to engage with streaming media and new media is vital for the future of classical music. 

"I discovered that some orchestras both at home and abroad are managing to adjust for online concerts. It will be a new beginning." 

As China's most successful musician, Lang Lang has inspired millions of Chinese children to chase their piano dreams in the hope of becoming the new Lang Lang one day.

As a new father to a baby boy, Lang said he hopes that his son "will learn some art form or a certain instrument. After all, art is one's best friend."