For classical star Lang Lang, musicians must ‘bridge’ cultures

Lang Lang, one of the world’s most influential classical artists, says that musicians must always act as a “bridge” between cultures, but even more so during times of crisis.

Speaking to AFP after an intimate performance at the Steinway piano showroom in Manhattan, the 41-year-old renowned pianist said, “every musician is an ambassador for their own culture.”

“When you’re a performing artist you play a lot of different works from different parts of the world, and it’s almost like a bridge, bridging the cultures,” he said.

“I think every musician has the responsibilities to share the different heritage through their music.”

Born in northeastern Shenyang in 1982, the globe-trotting performer became famous for playing the great romantic composers.

He’s brought that sensibility to Disney, as the entertainment conglomerate that revolutionized the animation industry celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Lang Lang last year released an album of songs based on Disney classics — “The Disney Book” — as well as a companion special that’s streaming on Disney+.

And recently he introduced a “Steinway X Disney” limited edition piano handpainted with the likeness of Mickey Mouse.

Lang Lang said a benefit of partnering with Disney is bringing more classical music to the ears of young people.

“A lot of the time people ask me to play ‘Frozen,’ to play ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight,'” he said, citing themes from the animated classic “The Lion King” and the more recent phenomenon about a kingdom trapped in perpetual winter.

He said part of his goal is to make versions of those popular songs “exceptional” and in the mold of “Chopin or Lizst — this level of piano that romantic composers will do.”

Lang Lang said the “deep emotion” that music can evoke allows it to “unite people’s hearts.”

“Music is quite powerful,” he said. “When you listen to music, you get a lot of different types of feelings. Whether it’s happy, whether it’s sad, or sentimental, in a way that you get a whole world, a range of emotions.”

He also lauded the power of live performance, which for years was set back by the coronavirus pandemic, saying that artists performing onstage is “kind of like visual art and performing arts combined.”

“Whether it’s moving hands or moving the body and facial expression, it’s very moving in a way,” he continued. “A great performance always moves your heart.”

Asked if he had any concern over AI — whose use in music has been the subject of controversy and debate throughout the industry, with some pointing to copyright abuses — Lang Lang brushed off the concern.

“It’s not easy to create another Beethoven,” he said.