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Jean Oelrich
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Superstar pianist Lang Lang returns to Pacific Symphony for one evening of stunning keyboard virtuosity-tackling both Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven's "Emperor"

August 27, 2012

Classical music superstar Lang Lang returns to Pacific Symphony for a one-night-only special event, led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Recently honored with carrying the Olympic Torch for the 2012 Summer Games and performing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Diamond Jubilee, the 30-year-old Chinese piano virtuoso has been for some time garnering attention the world over, playing sold-old recitals and concerts in every major city. Heralded as the "hottest artist on the classical music planet," by The New York Times, Lang Lang joins the Symphony for not one, but two of the most demanding piano concertos in the repertoire: Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, the "Emperor." Tickets range from $35-$145; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org.

"…there will be no stopping this nonchalant dervish of the keyboard . . .his playing was so raptly beautiful that one was afraid to breathe for fear of missing anything." — Chicago Tribune

"Lang Lang is in unbelievable demand as soloist," says Maestro St.Clair. "There isn’t an orchestra in the world who wouldn’t want to have him on their series this season, or any season. We are indeed honored that he has chosen to return to Orange County and Pacific Symphony to perform two major concertos. It will be an honor for me to have the chance to work with him again. We are truly blessed!"

With lightning speed, drama and technical brilliance, Lang Lang embodies the same "rock-star" appeal as Liszt did in the powerful, fleet parallel octaves of his Piano Concerto No. 1—passages that have become a touchstone of keyboard virtuosity. In 2011, Lang Lang recorded this romantic showpiece on the CD "Liszt, My Piano Hero" and DVD "Liszt, Now!" to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer. For the concert’s finale, the classical icon performs Beethoven’s grand and heroic "Emperor" Concerto, which opens with the quality of a royal fanfare and propelling cadenza-like flourishes from the star soloist. The orchestra kicks off the evening with Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Capriccio Espagnol," a glittering display of orchestral colors based on Spanish themes.

"Lang Lang embodies music," continues St.Clair. "He understands the power of music and how it can elevate our lives. Through his electrifying, probing performances we are all transformed and enriched. Both Franz Liszt and Beethoven were piano virtuosos of their day. What better way to experience these concertos than by our modern day virtuoso, Lang Lang?"

Four years ago, over four billion people viewed Lang Lang’s performance at the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics in Beijing, where he was seen as a symbol of the youth and future of China. This status has inspired over 40 million Chinese children to learn to play classical piano—a phenomenon coined by "The Today Show" as "the Lang Lang effect." Recognizing his powerful cultural influence, in 2008 The Recording Academy named him their cultural ambassador to China. Most recently, Lang Lang was chosen as an official worldwide ambassador to the 2010 Shanghai Expo, where he performed at the opening ceremony.

"One of the things that make Lang Lang so special is his burning desire to share his music making with children and people of all ages," says St.Clair. "He is fully aware of the role this can play in helping shape their hearts, minds and spirits."

A strong advocate for music education, Lang Lang was featured in the 2009 Time 100—Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. For nearly a decade the pianist has been giving back to children through volunteer activities as diverse as mentoring young talented pianists, convening piano students in concert, performing for sick children in hospitals, delivering music recitals in underserved and remote communities and donating his musical talents to raise awareness of charitable causes. His efforts led to the recent launch of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation with the mission of inspiring the next generation of classical music lovers and performers by cultivating tomorrow’s top pianists, championing music education at the forefront of technology and building a young audience through live music experiences.

Lang Lang is the featured soloist on the Golden Globe-winning score "The Painted Veil" composed by Alexandre Desplat and can be heard on the soundtrack of "The Banquet" composed by Tan Dun. Most recently, he is the featured soloist on the movie "My Week with Marilyn." All of his albums have entered the top classical charts as well as many pop charts around the globe. In 2007, he was nominated for a Grammy Award, becoming the first Chinese artist to be nominated for Best Instrumental Soloist. He was honored by The Recording Academy with the 2007 Presidential Merit Award; past recipients have included Zubin Mehta and Luciano Pavarotti.

In 2011, the Lang Lang Music World was launched, which is a multi-functioning arts complex located in Shenzhen and Chongqing, China. In 2004, he was appointed International Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He also serves as chairman of the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award Project, on the Weill Music Institute Advisory Committee as part of Carnegie Hall’s educational program and is the youngest member of Carnegie Hall’s artistic advisory board. In May 2011, Lang Lang received an honorary doctorate of music from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at the Royal College of Music, and received his second honorary doctorate degree in musical arts at the Manhattan School of Music in May 2012.

Lang Lang began playing piano at the age of 3, his break into stardom came at age 17, when he was called upon for a dramatic last-minute substitution at the "Gala of the Century," playing a Tchaikovsky concerto with the Chicago Symphony. Following this gigantic debut, he performed successful concerts around the world. The Times in London remarked: "Lang Lang took a sold-out Albert Hall by storm… This could well be history in the making."