China's star pianist Lang Lang plays for change

Fri Aug 8, 2008 1:50pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's flamboyant pianist Lang Lang said his performance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was a message -- China is changing.

The 26-year-old spiky-haired pianist has captivated audiences around the world by combining his classical repertoire and pop-culture showmanship, making him a national hero alongside sport stars such as basketballer Yao Ming and hurdler Liu Xiang.

Lang, whose designer jackets have prompted some to call him the "Chinese Liberace," now lives in New York, but he said he still kept close ties to his native country and returns often.

"As a young guy it is a big honor for me to play at the opening ceremony and to represent a new generation of Chinese people to the world," Lang told Reuters.

"I'm part of a new generation in China enjoying a very different way of life from our parents. We love American culture and classical music but we also have strong Chinese traditions."

Lang was delighted with the choice for the Olympics -- a new eight-minute long concerto by Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye.

"It really is beautiful," said Lang, who has his signature on a new Adidas shoe and took part in the Olympic torch relay in Tiananmen Square in the run-up to the August 8-24 Games.

Lang's global profile has risen rapidly in recent years as he played sold-out recitals around the world and his album sales ranked him as a best-selling classical musician.   Continued...

<p>Pianist Lang Lang performs during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 8, 2008. The stadium is also known as the Bird's Nest. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>