Pianist Lang Lang says a Chinese filmmaker will now direct his biopic

The classical music star, who'll perform at the Louvre Abu Dhabi this week, confirms Ron Howard is no longer heading the project

Acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang will tackle Johann Sebastian Bach’s seminal 'Goldberg Variations' in Abu Dhabi on March 2. AFP
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A Lang Lang biopic is still in the works.

Speaking exclusively to The National before his Abu Dhabi Classics recital at Louvre Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, the classical music star confirms the production will be back on its feet with a new team.

The development comes after the film’s initial announcement in 2020 received a cool reception with news US Oscar winner Ron Howard directing the film, based on the 2009 co-written memoir Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story.

Fans of the book took to social media to bemoan how a US filmmaker — even one as seasoned as Howard — would not be capable of fully capturing the authenticity of Lang’s upbringing in China.

While not addressing the criticism, Lang, 39, confirms Howard is no longer involved in the project.

"I think we will have a Chinese filmmaker to direct for the time being," he says. "But it will definitely be an international production and cast and we are currently reshaping the whole team on this and will have more news to share soon.”

Taking on the giant

Until that day comes, you can see Lang in his element as he returns for a new run of shows, including a performance with the stunning backdrop of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Lang will bring an ambitious programme where he tackles Johann Sebastian Bach’ seminal Goldberg Variations.

Dating from 1741, the complex composition features up to 30 separate variations and is considered one of the most technically demanding to play.

Lang hopes his performance also shows some of the underrated beauty and imbued within the work.

"When you play a piece like this it is about balancing emotion and logic," he says. "By that I mean you can't bring about that emotion by not understanding the theory of the piece.

“At the same time, if that is all you know then you can't capture that emotion of the piece and it will ultimately sound like a mathematical or medical formula."

Lang reached that understanding after studying the work for 20 years, the results of which is the 2020's Bach: Goldberg Variations album.

Also aiding Lang in reaching that equilibrium was becoming a father for the first time in 2020.

"It definitely made me more sensitive and having a kid does soften the heart," he says. "You become more contemplative and thoughtful. I no longer feel as rushed as before and I am learning to appreciate the moment."

Planning for the next generation

While Lang admits long spells on the road will be a thing of the past, it will not keep him away from the stage. Indeed, his Abu Dhabi show comes on the back of performing as part of the Expo 2020 Dubai opening ceremony in October.

A regular performer in the Gulf, Lang sees a correlation between the region and China in its growing appreciation for classical music.

"Classical music is not from this part of the world or China, but whenever I visit both areas I see more youngsters starting to learn the piano," he says. " I do feel like we are in the beginning of a movement of learning instruments and how, for example, a piano, they can benefit other parts of life, such as academia."

It is a message pushed through his Lang Lang Foundation, which aims to raise the stature and benefits of music education.

A map of the world on the foundation's website shows its initiatives, including public classes, have been launched in Africa, South America and China.

Lang promises there will be bigger projects to come.

“In a way, the pandemic has helped with this in that, despite the tragic situation, it gave me more time to focus on the foundation from an administrative side,” he says.

Chances are, scenes of Lang shuffling paperwork will not appear in the coming film.

But the artist’s inspirational zeal will surely make the film a winner, no matter who is behind the camera.

"I want the next generation to think and dream big," he says. "And if I can help create those opportunities with the foundation then I will be extremely happy."

Lang Lang performs at Louvre Abu Dhabi on March 2 at 8pm; tickets, starting from Dh150 are available at abudhabiculture.ae

Updated: February 28, 2022, 2:10 PM