Pianist Lang Lang says the coronavirus is 'beyond imagination,' but welcomes signs of a return to normal

Key Points
  • "It's still a long way to go I think to get normalized," Lang Lang told CNBC. 
  • He recently performed in the One World: Together At Home virtual concert. 
Lang Lang on the 'huge challenge' of life in lockdown and signs of a slow new start in Shanghai

Internationally-acclaimed pianist and philanthropist Lang Lang has told CNBC that the last two months have been "very, very tense" and "beyond imagination," as China and the rest of the world have responded to the coronavirus.

"It's been absolutely a huge challenge for all of us. I would say that we are now gradually getting a little bit more normalized, but the last two months was very, very tense. It was really beyond imagination," he said.

"I only probably saw something like that in the movies."

The classical-crossover superstar, who is originally from China and currently staying in Shanghai, said there are now small signs of life returning to normal, but there is still a long way to go. 

'People are very careful, you see people with masks everywhere," he said.

"It's still a long way to go I think to get normalized. The movie theaters are not opening, the concert halls are not starting, the sports events are certainly not happening in this moment. But stores, restaurants, and people are starting to get back to work I think which is a very good thing, and you see people on the street every day more and more."

Lang Lang on the grand finale performance of the 'One World: Together At Home' concert

Lang Lang starred in the recent One World: Together At Home concert which has so far raised $127 million for global health workers. He performed in the grand finale with Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli and John Legend.

"I enjoyed it so much playing The Prayer, it's such a beautiful piece, it was so emotional," he added.

"I think particularly at this time we need to be together as one. And as a pianist, we really love to perform with other musicians because piano as an instrument is almost like a little bridge which connects to people from all over the world from different musicians, from different styles."

Lang Lang on the 'painful' economic impact of the coronavirus on friends and fellow musicians

The globally celebrated star also commented on how hard it has been to see how Covid-19 has affected his friends and fellow musicians.

"I feel so painful because even some of my friends got affected, and to see them suffer it's a very painful thing," he said.

He noted that musicians are unable to perform in public, due to widespread lockdown measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that he had "postponed ... basically cancelled, every concert from last month to who knows when."

Musicians John Legend and Coldplay's Chris Martin are among the celebrities who have cancelled tours as a result of the pandemic, and — like Lang Lang — have performed online instead. But not everyone has this option.

"I know a lot of musicians lost their jobs, and it must be a very difficult time for them," Lang Lang added. "So that's also another thing that I really try to see whether there's something, with the foundations or organizations, we can do some fundraiser for the musicians who lost their jobs."

Piano superstar and philanthropist Lang Lang: We need more support to save our charitable programs

Lang Lang said the current climate was also a "major challenge" for his philanthropic initiative The Lang Lang International Music Foundation, which he founded in 2008 to champion music education and inspire the next generation of musicians.

"It's very difficult. I'm talking to my CEO in New York and in Beijing about how to save our foundation at this time, but still giving money to the people who need this funding for public music education and for some other issues," he said. "My team are working extremely hard now, but of course, financially, we're all facing a major challenge."

He told CNBC that he is most looking forward to teaching more in schools around the world, and of course, returning to his passion of performing.

"We are now doing a lot of online performance, but I'd really like to get back with my audience and my friends. I want to share my emotions with them in the same room," he added.

Listen to an exclusive piano performance by Lang Lang