Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang joined Cuban jazz legend, Chucho Valdes for an electrifying outdoor concert in the historic Cathedral corner in Old Havana on Friday to mark the 500th anniversary since the founding of one of the oldest cities in the Americas.
The repertoire included classical works composers like Tchaikovsky and Gershwin and popular Cuban pieces by local composers like Ernesto Lecuona and Antonio María Romeu among others.
It is the first time that a Chinese pianist has traveled to Cuba.
Lang Lang says it was an exhilarating experience.
“It’s incredible for me to come to Cuba for the first time. I know Havana, the city, from films, from books, from movies, from the internet, for so many years, and such a beautiful city… and playing Cuban music, in Havana, that’s going to be something.”
One of the highlights of the show was Lang Lang’s duet with legendary Cuban jazz artist, Chucho Valdes.
Valdés – born in Havana – has won eight Grammy Awards for his music.
The two musicians met by chance last year in Vienna, Austria.
Valdes says he was instantly taken in by Lang Lang’s eclectic style and decided to invite him on the spot.
“It’s a treat to have an artist of the stature of Lang Lang doing a concert here, on the 500th anniversary of the city of Havana, the founding of the city of Havana and the people, everyone wants to see the concert, wants to see Lang Lang, the symphony and what we’re going to do, so this is going to be incredible.”
The duo was backed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, led by American conductor Marin Alsop.
Music students were invited to the general rehearsals before the big event.
Cuban Piano Student, Magda Lisa Osorio said she was thrilled to see these two great musicians performing together.
“Being able to share with Lang Lang and listen to him, take pictures with him, it is amazing. I, for example could not have imagined being told, ‘You are going to meet him and be close to him’, it’s like having your aspiration, your greatest aspiration so close to you.”
The New York Times has described Lang Lang as the “hottest artist on the classical music planet.” Time magazine recently included him on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
The 30-year-old, who has become popular on social media for his spikey hairstyle and for sporting shiny jackets at classical music concerts, is one of the most successful cultural icons of modern China.