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April 4, 2010

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Gracefully on the wings of music

SOME people call Shanghai the "Paris of the East," but I prefer to call it "a window of China's charms." The city belongs to both China and the whole world. As the host city of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, this city will once again stand at the very front of the world stage. It will become the most charming city in the world in 2010 because the charms of the whole world will be concentrated here.

Shanghai is a charmer in so many aspects, music prominent among them.

On the eve of the 60th birthday of our republic in September 2009, I was invited by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra to a concert celebrating the 130th anniversary of its founding. At the end of the concert, the mayor and the secretary of the municipal Party committee came on stage to slice a large cake symbolizing that extraordinary history of musical development. The audience burst into cheers. I will always remember that moment when Shanghai's place as a center of music shone as brightly as its much lauded place as a center of finance.

My roots in Shanghai's musical scene go back many years. Before I went to the United States to study in 1997, I held a solo concert in the city. I was 15 at that time. Although I had already performed a piano concerto with the then newly founded National Symphony Orchestra, which had been attended by then President Jiang Zemin, I was still a little nervous about my first appearance in Shanghai, a city full of musical celebrities and sophisticated culture. However, the box office alleviated my fears. Tickets were sold out. The Shanghai audience warmly embraced my performance. The warm glow of that experience accompanied me as I set off for my overseas study, confident that I would succeed if I worked hard.

After I established my fame, Shanghai welcomed me back time and time again. I joined the touring performances of world-class ensembles, including the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. I performed for the opening ceremonies of the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Shanghai Special Olympic Games. Almost every year, I would travel to Shanghai and "report" on my progress. These visits invariably gave me great joy.

When Shanghai was about to make a promotional video, it invited me to perform a piano version of the theme music. I accepted the invitation with great pleasure. The video was eventually named Shanghai Concerto, and it was very innovative. Once again, Shanghai defined itself in music.

In 2007, when Phoenix Satellite Television was filming a documentary of my career called "Lang Lang's Songs: A Gift for 2008," I had another chance to encounter Shanghai. The filming team built a stage by the Huangpu River and placed my piano on it. Strengthened by the mighty waves of the river, my music echoed along its shores to the rhythm of its flow.

Of course, my greatest honor was to be named one of the image ambassadors of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China. Now I feel I have totally become a part of Shanghai. I have had the honor to visit some pavilions at the Expo site, whose splendor took my breath away. I see Expo site as a symphony and the different national pavilions as movements: Some are vibrant, some are gently graceful, some arouse excitement and some exude exquisite beauty.

They truly exemplify the famous saying that "architecture is solidified music." When Mr Hu Jinjun, deputy director of the Bureau of the Shanghai World Expo Coordination, presented me with a souvenir badge depicting mascot Haibao, I cherished it as a great treasure. Wearing it, I performed "It's Your Birthday Today, My China" at the evening party on Tian'anmen Square celebrating the 60th National Day on October 1. I also wore it during an interview with CCTV and showed it to the presenter, the rest of China and the world.

As a pianist, I think becoming an image ambassador for the World Expo is not only an honor for me but also an honor for music. A city that promotes itself in music is surely a city with a great civilization.

I sincerely hope Shanghai will ride higher, farther and even more gracefully on the wings of music.


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