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My Evening with Lang Lang : International Piano Superstar Captivates Audience During Performance in Pittsburgh

by Alissa Brown

Photo Courtesy of Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

On March 7 I journeyed to Pittsburgh’s Cultural District to spend “an evening with Lang Lang”. 

Well, 2,500 other people and I. 

Lang Lang is touted as one of the greatest pianists of our time. Some compare his relevance to piano to Yo-Yo Ma’s to the cello. Personally, I hadn’t heard of him until very recently, but I was thrilled to see a professional pianist in person. I’m taking a Class Piano course this semester, but I am still very much a novice. Coming from a family of prolific and proficient piano players, the instrument has always intrigued me.

The performance at Heinz Hall began at 7:30 p.m., but I arrived half an hour early. I was in the nosebleeds, but I figured it would be alright. There’s usually not a packed crowd up there. 


As 7:30 neared, I became surprised at how quickly the seats around us were filling up. By 7:25, I was feeling just a little claustrophobic–I kept awkwardly bumping shoulders with the man next to me. It was likely the most people I’ve ever seen at Heinz Hall.

The performance began with the full Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in all their glory as they performed Georges Bizet’s Suite from “Carmen.” As always, PSO–led by conductor Manfred Honeck–delivered an epic and chill-inducing performance.

 It was incredible, but I was confused. Where was Lang Lang? Turns out he’s more of a closing-act performer. After a piece for the String Orchestra, a performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Bacchanale,” which made me tear up, and an epic-sounding piece called “Gift” by Chinese-American composer Zhou Tian, who was in attendance, it was time for Lang Lang.

Lang Lang was met with thunderous applause as he sat down at the new Steinway piano Heinz Hall acquired this year. It was immediately obvious he knew what he was doing.

 It looked like he was dancing, with flourishing hands and full-body movements that followed the intensity of the piece. Lang Lang, accompanied by the PSO, performed another work by Camille Saint-Saëns, Concerto No. 2 in G minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 22.

The concerto was composed of three movements, each movement more exciting than the last. It was slow and beautiful at times and furious and impressive at others. In the program notes, Dr. Richard E. Rodda described the final movement as a “virtuoso showpiece, filled with scales, trills and arpeggios executed at breakneck speed.” 

As soon as the final note was played and lingered for the appropriate amount of time, the audience shot up from their seats to give Lang Lang and the orchestra a standing ovation that lasted for quite a few minutes. 

After an encore was demanded, Lang Lang came out again to play an altered rendition of “Feed the Birds” from Disney’s “Mary Poppins.” The next encore came soon after Lang Lang received yet another standing ovation. 

Lang Lang has definitely become an inspiration to me. To master any skill at that level is something I could only dream of. There was a short Q-and-A session after the performance where Lang Lang talked about his program to integrate music curriculum to schools around the world. 

After the discussion, the crowd–led by a small boy who sat in the very front row–rushed to get pictures and autographs. All in all, it was an inspiring and informative experience, an evening I won’t soon forget.

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