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Lang Lang: Playing With Flying Keys    by Lang Lang order for
Lang Lang
by Lang Lang
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

At the age of three, prodigy Lang Lang began to study piano - first with his father, then with Professor Zhu at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music. Born in Shenyang, China, Lang Lang is now 'one of the world's outstanding pianists'. Along with author Michael French, Lang Lang (now twenty-six years of age) tells his story up-close and personal, sharing memories of his parents' support, a stern father, a nurturing mother, and varied tutors.

Lang Lang's story begins with childhood memories of living in an apartment on the Shenyang air force base, where his father was a member of the orchestra. As a boy, he read musical notes before learning the alphabet, winning his first competition at age five. His father mapped out a daily, rigorous, schedule between attending school, piano practice hours, and homework. Success was not without sacrifice, failures, or setbacks, as many periods were fraught with disappointments and a difficult reconciliation with his hard-driving father, whose mantra was: 'He must be the number one pianist in all of China. And then all the world.' At age five, Lang Lang placed number one (out of 500 competitors) in the annual Shenyang citywide piano competition for students under the age of ten. He played a very technical work by 20th century Russian composer Dimitri Kabalevsky.

Lang Lang's mother was the family's chief financial supporter, working long hours at a job in Shenyang, even after son and father moved to Beijing in 1991 to broaden opportunities. The Beijing apartment had no heat. Lang Lang practiced for hours wrapped in two pairs of everything, and could still see his breath. A Beijing Professor rejected him as a student, and his father became distraught to the point of telling his son 'that he should die'. Lang Lang writes that it was years later when he realized that the father 'I was confronting was not my flesh and blood. He was a stranger, possessed by the demons of a past that he could never change.'

Three thousand students entered the competition to be admitted into the Beijing Conservatory, out of whom twelve would be accepted. When Lang Lang placed eighth, his scholarship was secured. The prodigy and father traveled to Germany with scarce funds and difficulties in obtaining visas. In 1994 Lang Lang won his first international award. Through a sightless pianist and competitor, Akira from Japan, Lang Lang learned the importance of feeling as opposed to technical excellence in creating 'total musicality'.

Lang Lang went on to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania, performing with renowned orchestras internationally. Lang Lang: Playing With Flying Fingers includes a Glossary of Western composers, from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to George Gershwin, and both Strauss's; a list of Vital Statistics and Favorite Things, along with color photos. Lang Lang established The Lang Lang™ International Music Foundation 'with the objective of supporting education for musical training providing scholarships for young people from all over the globe'.

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