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Pianist Lang Lang appointed UN Messenger of Peace

Capitalizing on the popularity of the pianist Lang Lang, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 28 designated the world-renowned Chinese as a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on global education.

There are 57 million children around the world who don’t regularly attend school. Mr. Lang has been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 2003 and recently said he relishes his new mandate. He has donated significant funds to that global organization from the proceeds of his concerts and has also supported other causes, such as relief for the victims of the Haitian earthquake.

Lang Lang performing F. Chopins first Waltz at the UN ceremony.

Lang Lang performing F. Chopin's first Waltz at the UN ceremony.

Lang Lang’s work on the United Nations Global Education First Initiative begins with his October 28 appointment, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is excited. The initiative has three main goals:

  • Ensuring every child attends school
  • Bettering education throughout the world
  • Educating all children in the responsibilities associated with global citizenship

Lang Lang says:
“I hope that music and art will go back into many of the public schools where they have been cut out for a while. I hope that, as a musician, we will communicate with other great musicians and synergize our passion for music to inspire the newer generation to open their hearts in music and art. Hopefully then music and art will give a wonderful boost to our general education as well.”

Complete video of the UN Messenger of Peace ceremony including Lang Lang’s performaces of Chopin’s Waltz no 1 in E-flat and a new Chinese piece called “Sea Weed”:

Lang Lang International Music Foundation

Ever since he founded the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in 2008, Mr. Lang has committed himself to raising the level of music education to a higher level. He partners with other charitable organizations to cultivate a love of music in children worldwide. His mission is to inspire future generations of classical music performers and highlight the love of music as a method of youth development. As the ultimate team experience, ensemble performance demands a communal commitment to excellence, which will foster a sense of self-worth and confidence in the budding musicians. That assuredness will also serve prospective soloists as they develop musically.

Lang Lang says: “It’s all about how involved you are. There’s a great relationship between the parents, the piano teacher and the kids. It’s a golden triangle; it needs to work. If this doesn’t work, it will be hard to improve because there are a lot of challenges in life and if you are not synergized from the very beginning as a team it will be very hard to achieve anything.”

‪Midwest Young Artists and Lang Lang Foundation‬

‪Midwest Young Artists and Lang Lang Foundation‬

Lang Lang’s ebullient personality allows him to work with his extensive network of colleagues and other performers to provide students worldwide with an exciting music education experience. He wants classical music to become more accessible and less like it’s inside a glass case on a dusty museum shelf. Both Mr. Lang himself and his foundation strive to develop collaboration between peoples across cultural boundaries. In their mind, music is not only relevant to the goal of better world education but also essential. The Foundation seeks donations from like-minded individuals and organizations.


Congratulations Mr. Graffman!

Pianist Gary Graffman turned 85 this month. In a musical career that has spanned seven of those 8 1/2 decades, Mr. Graffman has experienced everything from entering the prestigious Curtis Institute at the age of seven, the accidental, self-inflicted destruction of his right hand’s dexterity to becoming one of the most prominent educators in the US.

As he recently reminisced, he was likely the first pianist to have recorded extensive repertoire with the five most prominent American orchestras: New York, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The so called OYAPs (Outstanding Young American Pianists) in the 1940s and ’50s, Gary Graffman and his pals Leon Fleisher, Eugene Istomin and Jacob Lateiner became the tidal wave of new US pianistic talent sweeping through the international concert halls.

Birthday box

In celebration of Mr. Graffman’s milestone birthday, Sony Classical has released a collection of all of his recordings in a limited-edition set. Together with 13 LPs, this 24-CD collection includes many recordings that have never before been on CD. Sony Classical has remastered the original analog tapes, and Mr. Graffman’s full prowess is on magnificent display. Notable are performances of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1964 with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic), Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto (1966 with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra), Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Prokofiev Piano Sonatas and one of the first recordings in the West of Tchaikovsky’s Second and Third Piano Concertos (with Ormandy). His solo recital repertoire is represented by a generous selection of Brahms (including the Paganini Variations), Chopin, Liszt and Schumann (Carnaval and the Symphonic Etudes). There is also a reissue of what may be Graffman’s most widely heard recorded performance Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (from the soundtrack of the 1979 Woody Allen movie Manhattan) which was one of the last times he used both hands at the keyboard.

Listen & Read

Gary Graffman in “For the Love of Music”
From the series of radio programs titled “For the Love of Music,” hosted by David Dubal on WNCN-FM, New York. Guest is pianist Gary Graffman. This program was originally broadcast on October 21, 1983.

Gary Graffman Lecture on Piano Traditions

Gary Graffman’s book (1982) I really Should Be Practicing

How a lousy piano in Berlin can cause focal dystonia

Mr. Graffman had studied with Horowitz and Serkin, won the Leventritt Competition, and had the musical world by the tail at the pinnacle of his career in the early 1970s. No one knew, maybe not even Gary himself, what he had been doing to his right hand ever since a 1967 concert with the Berlin Philharmonic where he was to play the Tchaikovsky B-flat Minor Piano Concerto. As Mr. Graffman remarked, the piano was lousy and had two particularly dead-sounding octaves above middle-C. He said that you could have hit it with a sledgehammer and the orchestra would have still covered it. There was no time to get another piano, so he soldiered on through the concert. Having to pummel the keys to get the sound and projection the Tchaikovsky demands, Graffman sprained his right-hand pinkie.

After surviving his way through the rest of that performance, he never sought medical treatment or took a break. He had concerts to do, so he altered his right-hand fingering patterns to ignore the injured finger. Ten years later, he noticed he was making mistakes where he never made them before. Two years after that, his right hand was useless, crippled by focal dystonia. Unless he wanted to play left-hand concertos, his playing career was over.

The left hand career

Mr. Graffman handled the crushing disappointment with dignity. With remarkable courage, Mr. Graffman also commissioned seven works for the left hand, which included Ned Rorem’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and one for two left-hand-only pianists that he performed with his lifelong friend Leon Fleisher (William Bolcom’s Gaea). In much the same way as his Mr. Fleisher did after his own diagnosis of focal dystonia, Mr. Graffman turned to teaching. He chose his alma mater, and has been at the Curtis Institute ever since. From 1980 to 1995, he was an instructor and was, until recently, the Institute’s president. Although he currently teaches six or seven students, he no longer runs the distinguished Philadelphia school. In a recent interview, he stated that he never would have joined Curtis had he continued concertizing. He also said that teaching others had been a real pleasure. Mr. Graffman counts Lang Lang, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Yuja Wang and Haochen Chang among his former students.

Examiner: Interview with pianist Gary Graffman


Second Life – A Second Chance for Pianists?

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab launched on June 23, 2003, and is accessible on the Internet. A free client program called the Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world (which residents refer to as “the grid”). Second Life is for people aged 18 and over, while Teen Second Life is for people aged 13 to 17.

In 2007 Lang Lang played the first piano recital ever to take place on SL. Also pianist Jeremy Denk appeared in 2009 via WGBH simulcast on Second Life. The way these events work is that the music is streamed onto Second Life and a separate “performer” operates their avatar to mime playing the instrument.

Read more:
Jeremy Denk’s appearance in Second Life
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Second Life


Lang Lang “Live in Vienna” Released in Multiple Formats
NEW! Click the album cover to listen to the complete album:

(This is a new feature available for Gold members of pianostreet.com)

Recorded and filmed live in Vienna’s legendary Musikverein concert hall, the Sony Classical debut is available on August 24 in multiple formats including vinyl and 3D video.

This release represents Lang Lang’s second live recorded recital to date after the best-selling “Live at Carnegie Hall” in 2004, which marked his international breakthrough as a recording artist. He has performed the new album’s program at the world’s major concert venues and will continue to tour with it throughout 2011.

This recital, one of 2010’s most eagerly-awaited classical recordings, is released in its entirety on the following multiple formats: Deluxe limited edition, Blu-ray, DVD, LP vinyl and Digital formats. For the first time Lang Lang will be performing some of the album’s repertoire in the new spectacular 3D format which will be a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray. This will include the first movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, Evocation from Albeniz’s Iberia suite, the explosive finale of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata and Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise. This forms part of Lang Lang’s commitment to reaching new audiences through innovative technologies, a goal he also aims to realize through his global brand ambassadorship with Sony Electronics. The Blu-Ray will be released in October 2010. The CD, DVD, LP vinyl and CD/DVD combo will release on August 24, 2010.

Sheet music of Chopin’s Polonaise “Heroic” to download and print:

Listen to audio samples

Lang Lang began playing the piano at the age of three and had already won the Shenyang Competition and given his first recital by the tender age of five. He shot to world-wide fame at seventeen when he triumphed in the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the “Gala of the Century”. Since then he has become one of the most sought-after musicians around the globe and was listed by TIME magazine among the “100 Most Influential People in the World”. Watched by more than five billion viewers, he played at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and performed alongside Herbie Hancock at the 50th Grammy Awards. In December 2007, Lang Lang was guest soloist at the Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm, an event attended by the Nobel Laureates and members of the Royal Family. He returned as soloist for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony and concert for President Barack H. Obama.

Lang Lang is an inspiration to young musicians everywhere and has made it his personal mission to broaden the appeal of classical music to the widest possible audience. He has founded the “Lang Lang International Music Foundation” with the aim of identifying and supporting exceptionally gifted piano students between the ages of six and ten, and he made a historic appearance on the finale of “Oprah’s Search for the World’s Smartest and Most Talented Kids,” duetting with three young musicians from his Foundation. Ever since the pianist shot to fame, China has been in the grip of a piano-learning frenzy known as the “Lang Lang Effect,” and Steinway has recognized the pianist’s popularity with children by creating five versions of the “Lang Lang Steinway,” designed for early music education. An estimated 40 million children in China are learning the piano because of the “Lang Lang effect.” While performing around 130 concerts a year, he also manages to find time in his packed schedule to be a UNICEF ambassador and work with the Montblanc Cultural Foundation.


Beethoven, Barenboim and Lang Lang in Summit Meeting

“It is not just sound. The problem is that this content cannot be really be articulated in an objective, rational, scientific way — with words.
If it were possible to articulate it in an objective, rational, scientific way, the music would not be necessary.”

In the Masterclasses series with Daniel Barenboim, he speaks about what
it is and what it takes to truly play Beethoven. Lang Lang, a younger
colleague playing the Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Appassionata, gets
some intense advice on how to reflect on different interpretational aspects.

View or print the sheet music!

Beethoven - Appassionata (Piano Sonata opus 57) br / Piano Street Urtext - *NEW* improved version

Beethoven - Appassionata (Piano Sonata opus 57) ,
Piano Street Urtext - *NEW* improved version


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