The 25-year-old Chinese piano prodigy chronicles his coming of age.
Lang was born in Shenyang to parents whose musical ambitions were thwarted by the Cultural Revolution, which suffocated all intellectual and artistic pursuits. He could read musical notes before he could read letters and willingly accepted the pressure from his parents to be “Number One”; he understood that, like other members of the one-child generation, he “carried the burdens and blessings of their hopes and dreams.” Having won his city’s ten-and-under piano competition at age five, Lang moved to Beijing with his father, their sights set on the city’s prestigious conservatory. His mother stayed behind to earn the family’s meager living, and Lang acutely felt the years-long separation. When his new teacher declared he had no talent, his father suffered a frenzied breakdown, shouting that Lang should kill himself rather than live with the shame of not making good on his family’s sacrifices. Four months of boycotting the piano and giving his father the silent treatment ensued before the boy agreed to practice again. He placed first among 3,000 at the conservatory’s audition and went on to win international competitions in Germany and Japan. At 14, he received a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he adjusted to the American system favoring performances over competitions, and embraced U.S. teens’ freedom. Two years later, he caught his big break in a brilliant substitute performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A standing ovation in St. Petersburg, a debut at Carnegie Hall and a bestselling recording with Daniel Barenboim followed. The prose crafted with veteran co-author Ritz (Grace After Midnight, 2007, etc.) lacks the sophistication of Lang’s playing, but it gratefully highlights his parents’ devotion and communicates his joy while performing.
A true rags-to-riches story told with fervor and variety.