Lang Lang was born in Shenyang, China, and he has Manchu ancestry. At the age of two he watched the Tom and Jerry episode The Cat Concerto which features the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt. According to Lang Lang, this first contact with Western music is what motivated him to learn piano. He began lessons with Professor Zhu Ya-Fen at age three. At the age of five, Lang won first place at the Shenyang Piano Competition and performed his first public recital.
When he was nine years old, Lang Lang neared his audition for Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music, and, having difficulties with his lessons, was expelled from his piano tutor's studio for lack of talent. It was at this point, that his relationship with his father began to suffer. To avoid shame, his father claimed that "dying was the only way out" and ordered Lang Lang to commit suicide by urging him to swallow an entire bottle of antibiotics. His music teacher at his state school noticed Lang Lang's sadness, and decided to comfort him by playing a record of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 10 in C Major, K. 330; she asked him to play along with the second movement. This reminded Lang Lang of his love of the instrument. "Playing the K. 330 brought me hope again," recalled Lang Lang.
Lang was later admitted into the conservatory under the study of Professor Zhao Ping-Guo. In 1993, Lang won the Xing Hai Cup Piano Competition in Beijing and was awarded first prize for outstanding artistic performance at the fourth International Competition for Young Pianists in Ettlingen, Germany, the next year. In 1995, at 13 years of age, he played the Op. 10 and Op. 25 études by Chopin at the Beijing Concert Hall and, in the same year, won first place at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Japan, playing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert broadcast by NHK Television. At 14 he was a featured soloist at the China National Symphony's inaugural concert, which was broadcast by China Central Television and attended by President Jiang Zemin. The following year he began studies with Gary Graffman and Dick Doran at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
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