New video: Lang Lang does Prokofiev, hip-hop style

New video: Lang Lang does Prokofiev, hip-hop style


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2014

Sony have quietly slipped out this vid of the Chinese pianist reworking Prok 3 with a drum set, followed by a stretch of Bartok. See what you think. Some may find the title a tad misleading. Mark Guiliana is on drums.

lang lang bartok


  • James Brinton says:



    It definitely works. I think that both Prokofiev and Bartok would be fascinated by this combination. While I do prefer the original, this musical exploration is quite refreshing.

    • RCL says:

      I think that both Prokofiev and Bartok would recoil in horror from this tripe. Both wrote far better percussive patterns than this drivel. Anything goes in music as long as you do it right…Sorry this ain’t right.

  • Art Serating says:

    Testing the waters for a new album concept? Do they think young people will buy something like this if it has the word ‘rock’ or ‘hip-hop’ in the title?

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    Reminds me of the old question “why does a dog **** its ****s? Because it can”.

  • Simon says:

    Great idea, Langx2. But you could pick any bit of fast Prokofiev for the same treatment.

  • RCL says:

    This is mildly amusing but still dreadful. You would never be required to play what’s being played on the piano here in a “rock” or “hip hop” format nor would either Prokofiev or Bartok have written such a percussion part for anything. Pointless.Getting ready for a corporate suit marketing exercise here methinks. There is something to be said about incorporating “modern” percussive repetitive patterns into modern “classical” music but grafting boring, average drum parts on to existing music that was written without them is pure marketing garbage and nothing else no matter what script the “artist” is reading to you. Even Emerson, Lake and Palmer (shudder) did it better.

  • Romero Sanchez says:

    I am a totally open minded person, not locked in some classical ghetto, but this is absolutely NOTHING! It’s just Lang Lang banging away at rapid speed, notes flying, but sadly saying nothing, like a person reading a poem at lightning speed, where the words lose their meaning and value. Here this ‘circus animal’ lives up to that title. It’s all only about notes, without feeling, nuance, colour or any sense of meaning and then, to be “cool” an added drummer beats away, just keeping up with the tempo. All this, for what? This is a total fake, a fraud, adulterated nonsense that will be totally forgotten in two years time. The classical business has really hit the bottom.

  • thomas p says:

    Speechless. The percussive effects of ProknBar cannot be enhanced or matched by that totally boring drum set. Tawdry? Well, yes, Lang Lang seems to search for that element….

  • Works for Prokofiev but Bartok’s rhythmic complexities that are inter-related with his melodic line may be too much for a single drummer to reflect.

  • John Landor says:

    The mostly negative responses to this experiment is very interesting, particularly as those composers, in their own expanding of boundaries, also outraged contemporary aesthetics.

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      I think there is a great difference between new music and just tarting up existing works. I have performed some really far-out stuff, which can be very challenging, but the composers were trying to say something. (As were Prokofiev & Bartok.) This says nothing.

  • Larry Katz says:

    It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, and this don’t.

  • I thoroughly approve. In longer sets there might be a way to allow the percussionist to display more creativity. Definitely see a relationship between this and freely improvised jazz that was not apparent. Jazz audiences will take to this. The pianism is brilliant; anyone who admires Art Tatum would respond. The two composers would be concerned, principally, about royalty payment arrangements.

  • Warren Cohen says:

    The basic problem here is that they are not together and the drumming is boring and is not adding anything worth hearing. I think this is what a lot of people here are saying-it isn’t the idea, it’s the execution. And quite frankly, I’ve heard Lang Lang play a lot better too.

  • m2n2k says:

    This type of drumming is much closer to jazz than it is to hip-hop. Of course, ELP’s The Barbarian is a much better “repackaging” of Bartok than what is shown here, but theirs was a finished product, while in this video, as far as I can tell, LL is just trying things out and is not selling any of this yet, either as a recording or as a concert performance. The bits from the Prokofiev’s Third actually work pretty well.

    Exploring connections between classical and other kinds of music from the last century is not a bad idea. In many cases, the combination will not succeed, but sometimes it might, and, if we insist on remaining isolated from all outside influences, we will only accelerate the decline of the kind of music that we consider the most valuable. During previous two centuries, classical composers enriched their output by borrowing and reworking material from folk music sources, so it is definitely possible that during this century classical music will benefit from its interaction with jazz and/or other types of contemporary music.

  • It’s great – reminds me of ‘The Bad Plus’ – they should do a version!

  • Sam McElroy says:

    A new era needs new commissions. Apportion budgets to that end. It’s pretty simple, really. It just takes leaders to do it, not followers.