Unearthed footage of 12-year-old Lang Lang shows the pianist’s incredible raw talent

13 June 2022, 17:22 | Updated: 14 June 2022, 08:46

Pianist Lang Lang aged 12
Pianist Lang Lang aged 12. Picture: YouTube / Lang Lang

By Kyle Macdonald

One of the great child prodigies of our time, and a pianist who would go on to change the classical music world.

On the occasion of Lang Lang’s 40th birthday, we take a look at grainy footage of the virtuoso, taken years before his world-wide fame.

In the video from the early 1990s, the young pianist plays Chopin’s virtuosic ‘Black Key’ Etude and a Liszt Tarantella.

The narrator in the feature explains that Lang Lang “works six hours a day on poorly tuned instruments to gain complete mastery of the piano. At school, he is the best. He wants his country and his father, a [former] musician for the Chinese army, to be proud of him”.

The film shows the raw talent, but also the sense of drive and expectation on the shoulders (and fingers) of the young player.

Talking to camera, Lang Lang says, “I want to surpass the best pianist; I want to be the best, better than everyone else.

“All of that will depend on what happens in the future, but my goal is to be the best in the world... I want to please my parents, but I also want to please myself.”

We also just love the bow-tie and shorts. Watch the footage below:

Lang Lang at Age 12

Lang Lang has been open about the high expectations and demands of his father, who was determined for his son’s musical success. In interviews, the pianist has talked of the 5am practice routines, aged nine, and years of pressure to fulfil his potential.

“Certainly, as a Chinese [person], this story already looks pretty tough. And obviously for the Western standard, it’s quite a difficult relationship between a father and son,” he told Classic FM in 2020. In the same interview, he credited “music” for helping to repair their relationship.

Read more: Lang Lang says biopic ‘was a very emotional journey for me and my father’

Fast-forward 28 years, and Lang Lang’s performances have taken him to the great concert halls of the world, with dozens of great recordings made. He even played to two billion people at the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2008.

It’s lovely to think that this ambitious, hard-working prodigy we see here, has not only fulfilled all his dreams and potential, but also has used his profile to share music and the positive message of the piano, with millions of other young people.

Lang Lang and Gina Alice play a breathless Brahms duet!

Since he burst onto the stage in the early 2000s, he has inspired millions of children in China to take up the piano – a phenomenon known as ‘The Lang Lang Effect’.

He also created the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in 2008, which upholds the belief that all children should have access to music education and opportunity. There’s also his introductory Lang Lang Piano Method and Keys of Inspiration program.

That enthusiastic, music-loving 12-year-old had so much to give the world.