China pianist denies political snub with White House tune

BEIJING, January 25, 2011 (AFP) - Chinese pianist Lang Lang has denied any political motives behind his performance at a White House dinner for President Hu Jintao after web users in China hailed his choice of an "anti-US" song.

The 28-year-old virtuoso played "My Motherland" at the black-tie state dinner last Wednesday -- which happens to be the theme of an anti-US film released in China in 1956 called "Battle on Shangganling Mountain", set during the Korean War.

"I selected this song because it has been a favourite of mine since I was a child," the 28-year-old virtuoso, who divides his time between China and the United States, said on his website.

"It was selected for no other reason but for the beauty of its melody."

The movie of the Battle of Triangle Hill, as it became known, features Chinese troops enduring huge hardship before reinforcements arrive and rout their American enemies.

Nationalistic Chinese web users had praised the pianist for choosing the tune.

"It's deeply meaningful to play this in the United States, but I don't know if the Americans can understand? Ha ha," one web user said on the portal sina.com.

In an interview on Monday with US National Public Radio (NPR), Lang Lang said he was sad and disappointed by the reaction of his countrymen.

"As a person, what I am trying to do, and what my mission is, is to make music... Once people used it as a political issue, that made me very sad. I am a musician, not a politician."

On his Chinese-language blog, Lang Lang had gushed about his evening at the White House in the company of Hu and US President Barack Obama, during which he also played a piano four-hands with jazz legend Herbie Hancock.

He wrote that playing "My Motherland" in front of so many dignitaries "seemed like I was telling them about the power of China and the unity of the Chinese".

In his latest statement posted Monday, the pianist, who was born in northeastern China and went to the United States as a teenager to study music, praised both countries for helping him in his career.

"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," he said.

"I couldn't be who I am today without those two countries."