Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Keys

In a nutshell, or should I say in a piano key (nah), this book is a compelling manifesto on the illustrious life of world-renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang, written by the man himself and Michael French, and adapted for younger readers.

This biopic on Lang Lang’s early childhood in the industrial city of Shenyang, coupled with his young adult life in the States is pretty well-written, with colourful language and an interesting storyline. But, this might have been because my expectations were rather low when I first saw the paperback book. (As I’ve said earlier, I fear musicians because they are all a little dotty). So when I read the first few pages of the book, I was rather impressed, although looking back, there were likely editors tweaking the narrative behind the scenes.

Lang Lang’s description of major milestones in his notably early life, like his first international success in Germany, or his career-changing perfomance with the New York Philhamonic, is especially exceptional, with sombre moments captured with a lighthearted sense of humour.

I loved the scene where professor/ arch-nemesis nicknamed “Professor Angry” shouted and cursed at Lang Lang and his father amid a torrential thunderstorm, and vowing not to teach him anymore. At ten years old, Lang Lang thought his life as a musician was ruined and this is perhaps the most dramatic part of the book. I like also the chapter in which Lang Lang and his father hatched a plan to travel to Germany for the music competition by making risky moves at every turn, and holding the reader in suspense.

The autobiography ends when Lang Lang is made a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. This was then considered his latest milestone at the time of publishing (the book is about a decade old).

Main story aside, you’ll also find bonus material at the front, middle, and back of the book, for the benefit of his fans. Oh yeah — there’s also an introduction by the esteemed maestro, Daniel Barenboim, which lends a certain signature to the book as well.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

(P.S. I am going to add star ratings to all my reviews from now on).


Published by Thomas Rettig


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