Lang Lang to Syria?

Lang Lang to Syria?


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2013

The pianist collects another meaningless title. Press announcement below#







United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki‑moon will designate the world-renowned pianist Lang Lang from China as a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on global education.  The designation ceremony will take place at United Nations Headquarters on Monday, 28 October, at a press conference to be held in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium at noon.  Lang Lang will perform Chopin’s Waltz No. 1 for the occasion.


Recognized for his commitment to mobilizing support for improving the lives of children around the world, most notably as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for the past 10 years, Lang Lang joins 11 other United Nations Messengers of Peace and one Goodwill Ambassador who advocate on behalf of the United Nations.


Messengers of Peace are individuals who possess widely recognized talents in the fields of art, film, literature, music and sports, helping to raise worldwide awareness of the Organization’s ideals and activities.  Through their public appearances, contacts with the international media and humanitarian work, they expand public understanding of how the United Nations helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.


In selecting Lang Lang for the designation, the Secretary-General said:  “As Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, you have used your unique ability to inspire audiences around the world to help improve the lives of children.  I am pleased that you will now be promoting global education, a key driver of human progress and well-being.  I look forward to working with you to advance my Global Education First Initiative.”


Lang Lang, who began playing the piano at age three, played at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for United States President Barack Obama and the Diamond Jubilee Concert of the Queen of the United Kingdom at Buckingham Palace in 2012.  He has performed with all the great orchestras and maestros around the world.


Lang Lang also has a keen interest in child development and the important role that music education can play in children’s lives.  Lang Lang said:  “My passion for playing the piano is only as good as the people it can touch.  The youth of today is the world audience of tomorrow.  I will do everything I can to communicate the message of education to everyone that I connect with in the future.”


In October 2008, he launched the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, with a mission to inspire and motivate the next generation of classical music lovers and performers, and to encourage music performance at all levels as a means of social development for youth, building self-confidence and a drive for excellence.  The Foundation operates with the conviction that music is a universal language and that music can open opportunities for communication, understanding and acceptance.  The Foundation strives to ignite a passion for music in youth so that they can be leaders in bridging cultural gaps and helping unite local and global communities.


In his work with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Lang Lang, a powerful advocate for the well-being of children around the world, has helped raise awareness to ensure every child’s right to quality health care and education.  In addition, he has frequently used his music to raise funds for UNICEF and for humanitarian aid in emergencies, such as a special performance for a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall in New York to benefit the UNICEF emergency response to the earthquake in Haiti.


The other Messengers of Peace, along with their areas of focus, are:  conductor Daniel Barenboim, peace and tolerance, since 2007;  actor George Clooney, peacekeeping, since 2008; author Paulo Coelho, poverty and intercultural dialogue, since 2007; actor Michael Douglas, disarmament, since 1998; primatologist Jane Goodall, conservation and environmental issues, since 2002; violinist Midori Goto, Millennium Development Goals and youth, since 2007; Princess Haya Bint al Hussein, Millennium Development Goals and hunger, since 2007; cellist Yo-Yo Ma, youth, since 2006; actress Charlize Theron, HIV/AIDS and violence against women, since 2008; Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, human rights, since 1998; musician Stevie Wonder, persons with disabilities, since 2010; and actor Edward Norton, Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, since 2010.



Further information about the Messengers of Peace is available at



  • V.Lind says:

    These designates are usually celebrities with a large following. Not every actor chosen is the best actor around, but is someone who can move the needle on coverage, bringing attention to an issue, or who inspires, for whatever reason, lots of people. Think what you like about Lang Lang as a pianist, compared to some of his betters, but he does project a sunny personality and optimism, and offers a good deal of charm. It will only be a meaningless title if he does nothing with it. If he goes out and tries to make someone’s day a bit better, where’s the harm? Royal families and movie stars and golfers (well, Rory McIlroy; not many others) all try to do a bit of this sort of thing. Anything that brightens an hour in this world can be no bad thing.

  • Donald Wright says:

    The moment I saw the headline, I leapt to my keyboard, eager to dip it in vitriol and pen (so to speak) some acidy bons mots about the appropriateness of Bang-, er, um, I mean, Lang Lang, being remanded to Syria. But the goals of the project are so laudable and commendable that I must refrain. Bravo, Lang Lang!

    • Phil says:

      That was my urge too, especially since I practise and perform for virtually fucking nothing. However, envy does not become one, so good luck to the grinning sealion.

  • Lang Lang does indeed have “[a] sunny personality and optimism, … a good deal of charm.” These are good traits to appeal to children and have them open their minds and hearts to classical music. Lang Lang takes some credit for the enormous surge (20 million?) of Chinese kids studying piano. This award definitely does not mean that Lang Lang is the world’s greatest piano virtuoso.

    I noticed that Midori is a previous recipient of the award. She has done a lot to set up programs and generate revenue to encourage talented young violinists. She was a child prodigy herself.

  • David says:

    This is a joke, right?

  • Phil says:

    ‘Affectedness’, not charm, in my book. Characters such as Roman Rudnytsky, Leif Ove Andsnes and Martin Roscoe have ‘charm’.