Lang Lang, the piano virtuoso who is often described as the most famous classical musician in the world. The guy who signed a $3million record deal is also a warm and friendly conversationalist. He gushes about his last visit to Abu Dhabi, in 2009, recalling the "sweet" youngsters he introduced to Debussy at a masterclass, and the camels he "played" with in the desert. When we are cut off suddenly at the end of our half-hour chat, he calls me back to stress again how grateful he is to hear that I enjoyed seeing him in concert some years ago. It is normally the other way around.
I am convinced this is no PR stunt. Lang Lang simply breathes music with a youthful zeal and clear-sighted zest, without abstraction or pretension. The audience is there to be pleased – and for Lang Lang the pleasure is all his. Does he, just maybe, feel a little pressure when he performs for world leaders such as Kofi Annan, Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II or former Chinese president Hu Jintao. "I don't really feel that these people are hard to please," he says "For me all audiences are the same, whether you are a president, a royal or a kid from Africa or China – I don't feel any difference. Everyone is important when they come to a concert – the most important thing is that they like music. We hold music first at the end of the day."