Superstar pianist Lang Lang began playing the piano at the age of 3, and by the age of 5 had given his first public recital. At age 17 he made his dramatic debut on the world stage stepping in at the last minute to perform Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and since then his fame has inspired over 40 million children in his native China to take up piano lessons. The ‘Lang Lang effect’ led to his inclusion in Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009. Still just 28 he balances an international concert schedule with numerous master classes, global advertising campaigns, media appearances, ambassadorial roles and high profile performance events such as the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and the 2008 Grammys.
Tom Service meets Lang Lang at Steinway Hall in London and talks about his iconic status, inspirations and future plans.
Photo: Lang Lang © Philip Glaser
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Benjamin Britten’s operatic version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written for the 1960 Aldeburgh Festival. Despite being conceived and created in less than a year it was an instant success. A new production opened this week at English National Opera which reveals the darkness in the Dream - setting the opera in a school where Oberon and Tytania use Puck and the children, who play the fairies, as their playthings – in every sense.
Tom talks to director Christopher Alden about his controversial production and is joined by critics Fiona Maddocks and Peter Conrad to review the opening night.
Photo: Bottom, played by Sir Willard White, with Tytania, played by Anna Christy, in English National Opera's production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. © Alistair Muir.
Mahler in Leipzig – Riccardo Chailly
This week saw the 100th anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler.
To commemorate this anniversary the Leipzig Gewandhaus have just begun a 12 day festival in which all ten of the composer’s symphonies are performed by some of the world’s greatest orchestras. Mahler himself arrived in the city aged 26 in 1886, taking up an assistant conductor role at the Neues Theater. He went on to compose his First Symphony in only six weeks.
Tom talks to Riccardo Chailly about how his own relationship with Mahler has deepened since taking over at the Gewandhaus Orchestra six years ago and about Mahler’s relationship with the city in which he became a symphonist.
McBurney on Mahler
Writer, Director and Actor Simon McBurney presents a personal meditation on the universal and philosophical yet intimate power of Mahler’s music.
His memories of listening to the Tenth Symphony with his mother, frame a mesmerising reflection on Mahler’s creative universe, connecting the theories of Einstein, Freud, and Max Planck with the substance of his symphonies and song-cycles.
Photo: Simon McBurney © Eva Vermandel