Lang Lang dives into the ocean of music

September 08, 2018 - 07:00

International concert pianist Lang Lang returned to Hà Nội's Opera House for the opening of Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot's boutique in the city. He speaks to Việt Nam News about his life as a touring pianist and what makes him tick.

The joyful method: Lang Lang tries to ease the hardship of practising with his own experience. — VNS Photo Việt Thanh
Viet Nam News

Lang Lang, so you’re finally back in Hà Nội. Are you going to play any works of Vietnamese composers?

I know the Vietnamese music scene. I know that pianist Đặng Thái Sơn won the Chopin Competition many years ago. I actually met his sister when I was visiting last time. So I know that you have a very good tradition of piano and classical music. And I really hope to see more Vietnamese pianists in the future and if you need any help, my foundation will help. The reason I built my foundation is because I wanted the new generation to have a chance to study with the best teachers to perform on the best stage and get scholarships, so they do not have to worry about the money or other things, but focus on piano training. So I’m looking forward to nurturing one or two future Vietnamese young pianists. I would love to.

Could you share some thoughts on being a classical musician?

Classical music does not come from Asia. If you want to be (a real artist), you cannot copy what German or French artists do. It’s great, you know, and I respect what they did and I respect great musicians. I love them, I learnt from them. But you have to have your (artistic) identity, otherwise you would never make a career. And this is something I am very honest about. I’m not hiding. I’m not saying something very clean, very civilised, but with no effect. I’m a guy who wants results. And this is what I tell my students. And this is the way you will go far beyond your dreams. You need to have confidence. 

We talked about Hublot, you know. The reason I love this brand is they never follow everybody else. They do their own stuff. As a musician, especially an Asian musician, you have to be confident on your interpretation, otherwise you will get buried in this world. I would not say this 15 years ago, because I was too young and I was not confident enough to say these words. But now I’m 36, and looking back, I think we have to be crazy in a good way.

Speaking of Asian identity, have you thought about a concert featuring top classical and contemporary artists, such as Đặng Thái Sơn, Yuja Wang and Big Bang?

They are great, the K-pop artists, especially Big Bang, you know. I would love to, but I need to see what their schedule is like after military service. I’m open to invitations.

What would you say to young students who do not like practising piano?

You can hate practise or you can enjoy it. I mean there are many ways of practising. I recently created the Lang Lang piano method, and the point is to try to practise more enjoyably. Because I hated and enjoyed practising. I know both feelings. But you have to practise. It doesn’t matter if you are in Việt Nam, or in China, Africa or America, even if you’re an alien, (maybe that’s different), but you need to find the best way for you. It’s not every time someone tells you this is the way. Maybe it’s not right. You have to make a judgement for yourself. And this is very important, you cannot just follow. In art, you cannot just copy. This is bad, very bad. You have to have a strong judgement and follow YOU! And that’s the way to success.

Some artists need to be crazy to create art. How about you?

I’m not crazy, I’m quite normal. But when you get on stage, you think about piano masters. Before you start, you’re in another world. You walk out on the stage, you see people clapping. Then you sit down at the piano. There’s this 10 seconds of silence, and you’re in another world. Then you gradually get deeper into that world. As the performance goes on, you keep getting deeper, then you’d have a break. So you’d come out of it a little bit, then you go back in. It’s like diving through the water, it’s like that. But it’s not diving underwater, it’s diving into the ocean of music.

Because we’re not playing air, we’re playing with something. When you touch the keys, it’s like a real body, you have the feeling of it. And then the sound comes, so that helps.

So does your father still pat you on the back when he accompanies you on tour? Is your mother going to do it this time? (He brought his mother for this performance in Hà Nội. Last time his father accompanied him.)

I look in the mirror and I do some kind of encouragement myself, like saying, ‘Good luck!’ When I meet my father, he still does the ‘patting’ thing. But it’s already in me. It’s already inside my heart. But I do this before taking to the stage – (he does a fist pump). — VNS