Video: So what did we make of Lang Lang and Metallica?

Video: So what did we make of Lang Lang and Metallica?


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2014

The announcement says it all: ‘Lang Lang and the one, the only…. Metallica!’

Big splash of Tchaik b-flat, then into the band. Somewehre in the middle, the pianist was allowed another riff. Was anyone watching, listening to, Lang Lang?


screen-grab: Rolling Stone


  • Johannes Gertz says:

    Lang Lang’s tireless efforts to establish street cred are so pathetic. Is this Sony’s brainchild? Or is he actively involved in the brainstorming?

    I’m not saying Lang Lang isn’t talented intelligent, and charismatic.

    But increasingly I just see him as someone ready to do ANYTHING for PR, and that is the antithesis of artistic integrity.

    I wish he would go away on hiatus for 5 years and digest/reflect. It would make him a better artist in the long run, and would be better for his career as well.

    He’s becoming a caricature of himself; he reminds me of Tom Cruise a few years back.

    • Anon says:

      Seems a bit harsh. It seems possible that LL is quite happy with being a very good classical pianist, and fancies trying out other stuff. Yes, it could broaden his brand reach and all that, but there’s nothing wrong in a talented person having some fun with other talented people. Sometimes it really works (other times not so much).

      It would have helped here if the guitarist had tuned his guitar with the piano, though. Painful listening.

      • Johannes Gertz says:

        My antipathy is reserved not for the idea of a collaboration between LL and Metallica, but the fact that there was obviously so little collaboration or exchange between the two. They probably spent 3 hours together, in total. It was just thrown together, and a musical mess was the result. LL is free to experiment and try different things, but when it’s a sham artistically it deserves to be called out as such.

    • Drumgirl says:

      Right on, Johannes Gertz. Could not agree more with you.

    • Edna Ferreira says:

      I completely disagree with these people who are criticizing Lang Lang for taking part the band Metallica,these people don’t want to evolve and understand that LL is not only the greatest classical pianist in the world but is also very creative and has a great versatility and can play any kind of music even if his genre is classical. It shows that LL is complete with a huge talent and perfect in all situations!!

  • Vince says:

    I believe this is the most significant appearance by a classical musician at the Grammys since pianist Marc Andre Hamelin. It’s a shame that Jared Leto, the presenter, mispronounced Lang Lang’s name as “Long Long.”

  • Very noisy! How much of what’s on stage can most members of the live audience hear over their own sound?

    • ibari says:

      Plenty. Back when the Beatles played at Shea Stadium it was a problem, but with modern amplifiers the raw human voice can’t begin to compete. I personally wear earplugs at live rock shows, and my guess is that this performance was deafening in the hall.

  • ibari says:

    I’m surprised how much I liked Lang Lang’s additions. Fills out some spots very nicely.

  • Ljubisa says:

    Anything is nothing…

  • Lang Lang is apparently flexible – “Socialist Realism” a la Stalinist committee-written works like the Yellow River Concerto, and “Hollywood Realism” as well.

    While we’re being so very inventive about finding ways to become popular, hasn’t anyone noticed that a more effective way to become popular would be to sell our womenfolk into prostitution? Everybody everywhere would love us then, right? If there’s a market for it, it’s cool, right?

  • There are two rock bands after whose concerts the streets of San Francisco are really deplorable the next day – the Rolling Stones and Metallica. That’s not what we need in the concert hall.

  • Jim Barish says:

    I went in with very low expectations and went out feeling vindicated. At the moment I’m not sure which party suffered the most. So, did the experiment work? Will there now be a flock of metal heads, 20-somethings and Generation Zs racing to the concert halls and music stores to breathe new life into the dying mass known as classical music? Maybe, at a minimum, they’ll rush to iTunes to download a much better rendition of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto.

  • richardcarlisle says:

    I lasted for five seconds, found good reason to thank my remote saving the trouble of getting up to switch to anything else.

  • Simon says:

    I feel sorry for Lang Lang, who spent/d most of this life for music! Most of the youtube users / bloggers only identified him as ‘piano player’ who ruined the whole show

  • Pamela Brown says:

    ‘Tallica has worked with musicians in the classical genre in the past, including S+M with the SFO. Some of their songs are brilliant; others are horrible. This performance was, imo, just ok. It does seem Lang Lang’s playing was more an addendum to the piece than an integral part of it, so that was disappointing, as they could have made that happen. Just the same, this is show biz, and on that level, I think it worked.

  • Olaugh Tershav says:

    So funny CBC! The future of classical music has reached a new audience! Mission accomplished! sarc off/

  • Howard Dyck says:

    BBB….Banal Beyond Belief!!!

  • richardcarlisle says:

    Mixing rock and classical is having a wet T-shirt competition in church, putting mustard on ice cream, putting a dog collar on a cat, finding a snake in your bed… all equally appropriate.

  • V.Lind says:

    It was pretty ghastly. But any thought that it will improve classical music’s fortunes was shot for me when I saw that the audience received Lang Lang’s flashy but unmoving opening in what sounded like confused silence (as I would have, had I been there) and did not respond till the first — phew, at last — guitar was plucked. And again, his late solo was received in bemused silence, relieved only when the (generally unimpressive) drummer kicked in. No two ways about it — this gathering of the musical “elite” is about as musically aware as a flock of screeching birds. The absence of any musical education in schools for decades has done its work, and there is a drastically shrunken audience out there for anything other than strum, strum, change chord accompanied by bang, bang, bang.

    Lang Lang’s intentions may have been to widen awareness of classical music. This stunt did not forward that mission in any way whatsoever. Wrong audience, and a huge audience watching the wrong audience fail to respond to him. Disastrous.

  • Canbridge says:

    Why on earth should we assume Lang Lang was on a mission to improve classical music’s fortunes. He was just being what all musicians ultimately are – an entertainer! So let’s just chill!

  • Denisov says:

    Here is youtube link to the performance in HD quality.

  • The only thing that I can say is, “That was strange.”

  • JK Johnson says:

    If Lang Lang continues with the type of production he was involved with last evening, he may end up becoming a big joke. It was fairly sad. Once Metallica entered this so called medley with their crass attempt at music making, Lang Lang was barely heard. Metallica has other great music that could have been performed, but this was just the low rent version.

    Lang Lang should take some time off and re-group. No more stunts. I saw him at the very beginning of his career and he was totally amazing. I did appreciate his memorial tribute to the very talented Van Cliburn, even though the sound production team skewed the sound on the piano, a Steinway with glitter glued all over it, another travesty. The fact is, Lang Lang will never be as good as Mr. Cliburn, nor gain the respect that was afforded such a gentleman.

  • Ben Wintour says:

    All you negative people need to get off your 90 year old high horse.

  • Paul Mann says:

    Why should he “take time off and regroup”? Maybe he’s happy with what he’s doing, and there’s no reason he should live by the standards set by others, not even if they happen to be Van Cliburn. I would never turn to Lang Lang for a Schubert sonata, but that doesn’t invalidate his presence in the musical world. Whatever one thinks of the sound Metallica makes, they’re great musicians of their kind and with a sufficiently open mind one can always learn something from other disciplines. And anyway, who’s to say that the branches of the musical tree shouldn’t get entangled once in a while, just for fun? The roots are still secure, after all. To me, this compartmentalising of music (usually by people who only appreciate one kind of it) is far less healthy than a few sequinned Steinways.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      Nice insights, Paul. I agree that Lang Lang has every right to chart his own course, and the more controversy it creates, the better.

      I also appreciate the significant risks that Hillary Hahn has taken within the framework of ‘serious’ music, to expand the horizons to new violin music and follow her own muse.

  • piano enthusiast says:

    Did anyone take Lang Lang seriously before this anyway?

  • JK Johnson says:

    The purpose of “Leave a Comment” is to consider the opinions of others or just state an opinion; not go on attack nor make sophomoric assumptions directed at the commentator, because you don’t agree. Attacking opinions is not the art of conversation.

    Yes, LL should take time off and re-group. I heard him in concert at the beginning of his career in 1999 in the US. He is a top drawer musician that performed on Sunday below his ability on national TV and cited by V. Lind’s previous commentary, he was ” playing to the wrong audience”. Most people in the audience and at home watching the Grammy’s had no clue who Lang Lang was, so the airtime response to him was a big dud. Why? Because he could have been marketed better for his appearance at the Grammy’s and so could have Metallica. If you go back to my previous commentary, you will find that I stated that Metallica could have selected GREATER music to perform. The band and the pianist gave a less than stellar performance that was thrown together with minimal rehearsal time.

    Lang Lang needs to have a mentor or different agent to help him have a better marketing direction, including when performing with groups such as Metallica. If he wants to perform with bands no one has a problem with this. However, this specific airtime didn’t do LL any favors and I think this is what many people (including those outside this group) are appalled with. His appearance was more of a stunt than a musical collaboration with Metallica. Had it been a collaboration, better music could have been selected by the band and pianist and had the possibility of being incredibly great. THEN, the audience would have paid attention and maybe he wouldn’t have been reduced to being called a “piano player”. Stunts create confusion so that people aren’t sure what they just witnessed. Hence, the reaction of the live audience on camera. Lang Lang would be better served if he could find some assistance in how to maneuver into music collaborations outside his usual comfort zone. I’d like to see him expand his musical world, not end up looking supercilious and ruin his career in the process.

  • Paul Mann says:

    Good to have a sense of humour isn’t it?

  • Several great contemporary classical violinists have ventured out into performing and recording with other musicians in different genres. Joshua Bell has recorded “Joshua Bell at Home with Friends” and “Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends.” In his “Musical Gifts” recording, he plays beautifully with the other musicians, but his music is so poorly coordinated with that of his friends that he sounds like a Post-It slapped randomly onto a great treatise. By contrast, in “Musical Gifts,” he plays beautifully in several genres, always being integral to the overall sound. Years ago, Hilary Hahn played with a guitarist. He led and she followed and improvising. More recently, she has played and recorded with the Icelandic pianist Hauschska. He wanted one piece that they played together to have as random a sound as possible, so he put a few ping pong balls into the piano, resting on the strings, and got very excited about it. A physicist or statistician could describe the ping pong ball maneuver as less than random, and I would describe it as less than musical. Finally there is Rachel Barton Pine, who plays both classical and heavy metal rock on her violin. She keeps the two genres distinct from each other. I can’t comment on her heavy metallic rock, but I think that her classical music playing is quite good.