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Pianist Lang Lang speaks out about White House state dinner controversy

January 24, 2011 |  3:48 pm

On Wednesday, superstar pianist Lang Lang appeared at a White House state dinner at which he performed for the likes of President Obama and Chinese President Hu. But in the days since the dinner, Lang has become the center of a controversy about whether his choice of music was intended as a veiled insult to his American hosts.

Lang performed a song called "My Motherland" from the 1956 Chinese movie "Battle on Shangganling Mountain," which is set during the Korean War and features the defeat of U.S. troops on the battlefield. The song, which can be heard in the video clip above, has long been a popular and patriotic anthem in Communist China and is often performed at concerts and recitals.

Certain passages of the song indirectly refer to Americans as "jackals." Bloggers in China -- along with some conservative writers in the U.S. -- have maintained that Lang intended the piece as a slight to the United States.

In a statement released Monday, however, Lang said that he chose the 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." Lang was born in 1982 in China and makes his home in China and the U.S.

Read the full Times story on the controversy over Lang. On Tuesday, Lang is scheduled to perform with the Pacific Symphony at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.


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-- David Ng

Photo: Lang Lang at the Hollywood Bowl in 2009. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times