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Chinese-born pianist denies he played song to insult U.S.

Lang Lang said he chose 'My Motherland' for a White House dinner because of its beauty. But U.S. conservatives and some mainland Chinese say the piece, known from a 1956 anti-American film, was a slap.

January 25, 2011|By Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau
  • Pianist Lang Lang said his goal was to "bridge cultures together through the beauty and inspiration of music."
Pianist Lang Lang said his goal was to "bridge cultures together through… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Washington — Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang denied Monday that he sought to insult the United States with the choice of a song he played at a White House state dinner last week, despite the claims of some mainland Chinese and conservatives in the U.S.

Lang Lang, the 28-year-old virtuoso who performed at a dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, said he played "My Motherland" not because of its anti-American associations but entirely "for the beauty of its melody."

The piece was featured in a 1956 Chinese movie about soldiers in the Korean War that expresses strong anti-American sentiments. The film tells the story of the Battle of Triangle Hill, in which Chinese troops suffer hardship, but ultimately triumph over their American adversaries.

American conservatives and some mainland Chinese, in a rare convergence of views, have been asserting online that the pianist intended to insult the United States.

Lang Lang, who lives in both the U.S. and China, issued a statement saying: "I selected this song because it has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. It was selected for no other reason but for the beauty of its melody."

He said his goal was to "bridge cultures together through the beauty and inspiration of music … America and China are my two homes. I am most grateful to the United States for providing me with such wonderful opportunities, both in my musical studies and for furthering my career."

Lang Lang will be in Southern California on Tuesday, performing with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa.

Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said the song is "widely known and popular in China for its melody. Lang Lang played the song without lyrics or reference to any political theme .... Any suggestion that this was an insult to the United States is just flat wrong."

One Chinese blogger posted an item on the Sina news portal saying that it was "deeply meaningful to play this in the United States. But I don't know if the Americans can understand. Ha ha."

paul.richter@latimes.com

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