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THROWBACK THURSDAY | Lang Lang Performs at the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

In honor of the current Tokyo Olympic Games, we’re revisiting the pianist’s dazzling performance from 2008


On August 8, 2008, 91,000 spectators gathered in the Beijing National Stadium, and 2 billion others tuned in from around the globe to watch the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.

In many ways, the event marked China’s reemergence to the world — a spellbinding showcase of its finest artistry. Among its 15,000 performers was the then-26-year-old Lang Lang

Adorned in a traditional silver robe, the Chinese pianist and a five-year-old Li Muzi sat in front of a white, grand piano in the middle of the empty stage, and began playing a new concerto by Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang.

As the eight-minute piece unfolded, hundreds of dancers emerged onto the stage. Accompanied by the China Philharmonic Orchestra and under the baton of Yu Long, the performance served as a musical transition of the opening ceremony performances from a celebration of ancient China to the modern era. On a larger scale, the performance displayed the significance of classical music in the country.



Lang started playing the piano at age 3 after seeing an episode of the television cartoon “Tom and Jerry” in which Tom was playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. He left China at the age of 15 to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with his big break coming two years later when he performed Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 

Now recognized as one of the leading classical musicians of the 21st century, Lang plays sold-out concerts all over the world. He has gained a reputation for his immense diversity as an artist, from playing concertos of the standard classical canon with the world’s top orchestras to performing at the GRAMMY Awards with Metallica, Pharrell Williams, and jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

Lang has acted on his passion for music education, founding the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in 2008.

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