The Secret Piano

By Zhu Xiao-Mei, Ellen Hinsey (translator),

Book cover of The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations

Book description

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China, and her musical proficiency became clear at an early age. Taught to play the piano by her mother, she developed quickly into a prodigy, immersing herself in the work of classical masters like Bach and Brahms. She was just eleven…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Secret Piano as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I came to the piano as an adult and felt pretty sorry for myself–how am I supposed to do all this torturous practicing before and after work?

Then I read Zhu Xiao-Mei’s account of studying the piano during the Cultural Revolution, and realized what real commitment looks like. Zhu is a brilliant concert pianist who had to master Bach while practicing in a labor camp freezer. Read this tragi-comedy of China, politics, and Bach, and surmount your (room-temperature) challenges.

From Dan's list on Bach, music, and the piano.

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China. Taught to play the piano by her mother at age 10, she developed into a prodigy.

But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family members were scattered, sentenced to prison or labor camps. By 1969, the art schools had closed, and Xiao-Mei spent the next five years at a work camp. Life in the camp was nearly unbearable, thanks to horrific living conditions and intensive brainwashing. Yet through it all, Xiao-Mei clung to her…

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