For pianist Lang Lang, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is special.
“Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto is a classical music workhorse — everybody plays it,” Lang Lang said Thursday. It’s also the first piece he played, at age 17, with the Chicago Symphony, and he credits it with making his career.
Lang Lang will play that piece again Saturday at the St. Louis Symphony’s Red Velvet Ball.
“I love this piece; I always want to play this piece,” he said. “I feel something unique, something really warm, something very passionate, something really emotional. So I really like to bring this kind of feeling into Saturday night’s concert.”
Before the concert, Lang Lang will spend time at Mercy Children’s Hospital St. Louis today, playing for young patients.
“I’m quite excited,” he said. “I really hope music will cheer the people up there. I really hope music can make them feel better.”
Lang Lang established a foundation in 1998 that works with schools and young musicians.
“Music changed my life, and changed many musicians’ (lives). I think that music really opens children’s hearts, imaginations, creativities,” he said.
When he came to the United States, Lang Lang said he was surprised to learn how many public and private schools did not have music programs. The Lang Lang International Foundation is now working with schools in New York and Boston.
“We are now building up a new music method for the schools. We are hiring the music teachers to teach there and then we buy instruments for them to practice,” he said. He is looking for ways to expand the program across the country.
Lang Lang has played around the world and, for a concert pianist, with some unexpected groups. In January, he played “One” with Metallica at the Grammys.
“I actually have never played so many kinds of heavy metal music in my life,” he said. “When I prepared the song with Metallica, I was totally into the heavy metal, and I was listening to their songs every day, like eight hours. And I loved them. They are wonderful musicians and they’re wonderful people. They really bring such an energetic power into the music they’re making, and that is very inspiring, whether it is in classical music or another genre.”
Next week, Lang Lang will play with 80 children from around the world and Sting at a United Nations concert.
“Whether you play in the living room or in a village in Africa or in (the) United Nations or Powell Hall or Carnegie Hall, I think you are making music and you are sharing music with people,” Lang Lang said. “Our job is to focus in music, and really to inspire people through music.”
St. Louis Symphony's Red Velvet Ball featuring Lang Lang
- When: 8:30 p.m. Oct. 18, 2014
- Where: Powell Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
- More information