Lang Lang by Lang Lang

Lang Lang by Lang Lang

Author:Lang Lang
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780375849107
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Published: 2008-07-07T16:00:00+00:00

Once we reached Ettlingen, the contest sponsors gave every participant a separate rehearsal space. Wandering down the hallway, looking for a private room that hadn’t been taken, I suddenly overheard the most magical notes coming through a half-open door. When my father and I peeked in, I saw the back of a young man, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, and as he played he swayed back and forth in a free-form motion. I had never seen anything like it. When I played, my posture was as rigid as a two-by-four.

“He’s blind,” my father whispered to me.

Intrigued, I just watched. The boy seemed to sense our presence even before I walked over and sat on the bench beside him. The boy turned his head to me, and I saw that his eyes were squinted closed. My English was no better than his, but I found out that he was Japanese and his name was Akira. Akira didn’t seem bothered by the fact that we both would be competing and asked if I would play something for him. I chose Liszt’s “Tarantella,” which I would perform in the competition. It’s a highly charged piece, with a rapid tempo in 6/8 time, about a poisonous tarantula that bites women. If you’re infected with its powerful, hallucinogenic poison, you must do a special dance to rid your body of the venom and to ward off death.

“Yes, yes, very good, very good,” he praised me when I finished.

Then he played the same composition, except it was a very different interpretation. He played with far greater sensitivity, a softer, more delicate touch on the keys, and he never strained to capture the emotion. He became the emotion. The joy of the dance sprang from his heart, not his head. His sightless touch showed me how important feeling, as opposed to technical excellence, was in creating total musicality.

We played more songs for each other, not as competitors but to show our mutual love for music. I was amazed, stunned, and moved to be sitting next to him. At this point in my life, I had heard hundreds of pianists, but none like Akira. When I finally told him my age, he said, “I’m lucky you are in a younger group or else you would beat me.” It was a two-tier competition: Group A included students age eleven to sixteen, and Group B included students ages seventeen to twenty.

“I’m the lucky one. You are unbeatable,” I said in my primitive English, which in turn made me aware of how primitive my interpretation of music was. At this most inconvenient time, just before the most important competition of my life, I was suddenly questioning how I played the piano.


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