You’ll forgive Lang Lang everything after watching this

You’ll forgive Lang Lang everything after watching this


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2016

Four hand with Martha Argerich on ZDF TV.


martha argerich lang lang


  • John Borstlap says:

    Who is handling (footing) the pedals? Something to be wished there. Maybe both their feet were on the right pedal.

    The interpretation is persistently ‘romantic’, in the kleinbürgerliche, kitschy sense, and completely un-Ravellesque. They never bothered to find-out about R’s aesthetics.

    • Erwin says:

      In this case, John, I totally agree with you. In my opinion they turn these delicate miniatures in some sort of cheap salon caricatures. Almost continuous over-pedaling, bad timing & balance between the two, exaggerated rubati and tempi (what a frantic Laideronnette!), ugly accents etc. I certainly don’t “forgive LL everything” after listening to this…

      • Sue says:

        I have to agree. Argerich should have known better. But who am I to tell her how to play the piano, really?

        We have just had the Sydney International Piano Competition here and one competitor, from Thailand, played Chopin in such an unfamiliar and idiosyncratic way (and in the 2nd Round!) that it no longer sounded like Chopin. An expert commentator (himself a Beethoven exponent on piano) said that the competitor “reminds me of Lang Lang and that kind of pianism which is all about the musician and little about the music, which he/she shapes to their own ends”. I had been reasonably sympathetic to Lang Lang right up until I heard this very succinct comment.

    • Intrigued says:

      Please upload a video of one of your performances so we can make a judgement on your musicianship. Thank you.

      • Alwyn Green says:

        I can assure you that John Humphreys is a fine, distinguished pianist with a wide knowledge of professional playing and is also a distinguished teacher. As a professional with over forty years experience, I happily accept the validity of his judgement.

        • Intrigued says:

          I know who he is and of his career however I find comments like “They never bothered to find-out about R’s aesthetics” when speaking of Martha Argerich to be slightly arrogant. Disagree with me if you like but if a professional musician has nothing better to do than be the first to slate someone else’s performance it’s a pretty sad state of affairs. Particularly when they are widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest living pianists.

          • Intrigued says:

            But are John Humphreys and John Borstlap the same person? I am confused here.

          • Alwyn Green says:

            I’m very interested in learning why intrigued is hiding his/her identity whilst being just as forthright as Mr Humphreys.

          • Intrigued says:

            I was replying to John Borstlap.

      • Una says:

        Here, here!

        • Donald Wright says:

          What in the world do you mean by “here, here”? (Where is “here”?) If you are attempting to indicate that you agree wholeheartedly with someone else’s assertion, the phrase you want is “hear, hear.”

          As to the insistence that those who dare to criticize a particular performance first prove their own musical credentials by presenting their own performance of a given work, well, that probably stirs the sanctimonious up into a quiver of righteous indignation. But it’s analogous to a “tu quoque” fallacy. If that argument had any validity, only filmmakers could critique a film, only novelists could be allowed o pen a review of a novel, etc.

          • Intrigued says:

            As a colleague of mine recently said (he is a very respected string player) 1% of the audience know, the other 99% are assholes.

    • Still cannot forgive him everything. This is so un-Ravelling.

  • Eric says:

    I think they are interpreting the music. It’s what performers do.

  • MacroV says:

    I don’t know if I’ll forgive him anything, but it shows he can be on his best behavior with the right collaborator. Just like Pavarotti when he worked with a great conductor.

  • The Cuban Stallion says:

    Blast from the past? That’s from the Verbier Festival in 2007.

  • V.Lind says:

    While sardonic remarks about Lang Lang usually find some takers here, not everyone has to find forgiveness. You tend to set the tone, and LL’s few defenders tend to be abused by a regular posse.

    In point of fact he works with a great many of the best in the world, suggesting that professionals who have great reputations to protect do not find him a waste of space. I have always assumed that the main objection around here is to his adventures in crossover and his willingness to show up just about anywhere. It is hardly surprising that a young man enjoys the music of his contemporaries and likes taking part in celebrations of their work, such as the Grammys. Or that he should appear at his country’s Olympics.

    Maybe his objectionableness is based on the fact that he is probably raking in serious coin. He certainly sings for his supper — he will seemingly go anywhere, and (to the objection of the more puristic posters here) do just about anything. He is, as a consequence, just about the only classical pianist these days who CAN do a commercial and be recognised, or who can do chat shows a anywhere. This — as has been pointed out by others in the past — is surely good for classical music, increasing its accessibility and its appeal to the younger people who have been raised without it as background music — to its great detriment.

    People deride his musicianship, but few musicians discussed on this forum have been spared, so — with a few obvious exceptions — there is room for consideration of his work. I have attended one of his Master classes, where I was impressed with the way he handled the young aspirants, and I have seen him in concert where he delivered some very good Chopin. rather enjoyed this rendition of the Ravel, for which, appreciation for posting. I also listened to a series on Radio 3 in which he discussed influences, teachers and teaching, training and other aspects of his life in music. He was certainly worth listening to.

    Perhaps a little less harsh judgment and more generosity would open up the narrow world that classical music seems to so many these days. Perhaps he is no Trifonov, but he still draws people in and that has to be a good thing.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      Apropos your last paragraph, Trifonov is from solid Russian / European stock……..and Lang Lang isn’t. Read into that what you will.
      The vitriol dished out to LL on this board is quite staggering, usually from white Europeans (how’s that for a sweeping generalisation?)

    • Una says:

      I’m no great fan of his, but still he’s made it and been very successful, and done a lot of good. I saw him at the London Proms in the 90s. Wonderful!

  • Greg says:

    Something besides ‘Liberace’ showmanship must have been taking place; I’ve never seen Martha Argerich smile so much.

  • Bennie says:

    Too late to request this video to be burnt, right?

  • La Verita says:

    In the talent department, LL is without any doubt a Rolls-Royce. But every Rolls-Royce needs a driver, and that’s just what LL doesn’t have – which is why he drives his “car” into one musical ditch after another. With his inability to think responsibly, he relies on his whims — and his whims betray him at every turn. His student-level musicianship showcases his stunted growth, and it relegates him to 2nd class. That he has worked with the world’s greatest conductors, and that his musicianship nevertheless fails to improve, is a sad confirmation of his intellectual & musical limitations.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      That he has worked with the world’s greatest conductors, and that his musicianship nevertheless fails to improve, is a sad confirmation of his intellectual & musical limitations. ……….or a very accurate assessment of your lack of musical credibility.

    • John Borstlap says:

      LL fills concert halls, and even the greatest names reveal themselves to occasionally fall for that requirement. As said somewhere above, the young Chinese has lots of talents, but no taste. Many great names suffer from the same disadvantage but audiences mostly don’t mind.

  • Standingstones says:

    Didn’t Earl Wild call him the ‘J-Lo of the piano? ‘ Enough said.

    • Frederick West says:

      Indeed he did, and, I believe, a ‘circus entertainer’. Well, Earl Wild might know a thing or two about the latter. I’m a Wild fan but I’d acknowledge he ‘had his moments’ now and then!

  • CB says:

    “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about” – Oscar Wilde.
    LL’s career is just where he wants it; he’ll be around long after many obedient puritans have faded into oblivion.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Wilde’s saying is funny after-dinner table talk, but in the end, nonsensical: in the cruel wind of history, many artists who were ‘the talk of the day’ disappeared without a trace while others, working in the margins, often get their due later-on, because of achievement, not because of media attention.

      • CB says:

        I’m actually pleased to hear this comment, I wish you were around (Dec 14 or 15) when the Tchaikovsky piano winner was being crucified, on this very site, for not out-flashing his competitors – a year not yet completed then.
        On that note (and since my comments have attracted an audience) let me address a personal peeve:

        It is the mindless critic that suffocates creativity in artistic performers. The age of social media is devouring artists, thrusting them into an open colosseum where small minded, ill-willed and uneducated people all get a turn to Bite at them. This highly scrutinizing environment, created by inconsiderate bloggers, leaves little room for timely and inspired development in artists, and causes them to perform below that they are capable.

        Of course, certain critical analysis is useful and beneficial to the furtherance of our fine arts, but the more intelligent of us will infer that: many a slanderous comment is motivated by spite. Who, after contemplating, sits down, starts up his computer and eagerly prepares a post for the purpose of informing this troubled world that, “I saw (artiste) hand tremble!”? – The fear of such unnecessary scrutiny is what PROVOKES trembling in most performers.

        You will seldom hear a fellow artiste contribute to slanderous and fussbudget comments because he too knows what it’s like to be thrust into the den of lions, and that tomorrow is his turn again to face their merciless fangs; he also knows that – even when the attack is directed towards a contender – you (the hyper-critic) are his true enemy.

        On behalf of artists everywhere and of music lovers who desire the finely, matured wine of un-pressured performances, I would like to call out the true culprit.

        As for LL – he can play his fiddle for who he wants! (Ok, piano)

  • CB says:

    Also: It was the ‘rebel’ Sylvie Guillem that first attracted me to ballet; like her, LL is wooing a new generation to classical music (I bet there is less coughing during his live performances).

    • Sue says:

      And that’s as may be and their constitutional right – no doubt about it. But whether it is solid music-making which follows a European kunstmusik tradition – a line of succession, if you will – remains specious. It needs to be called out for what it is; Liszt without the musicianship.

    • La Verita says:

      Maybe less coughing, but definitely more talking, texting, picture-taking, and clapping between movements (even DURING movements!). LL attracts the light-weight crowd, but at least those folks are giving classical music a chance – albeit “how” they are hearing it played leaves much to be desired – but they’ll never know the difference.

      • Sue says:

        You’ve just sent an almighty shiver down my spine remembering what it was like at the Konzerthaus in Vienna – where they have strict rules (never enforced!!!) and people who should know better. Out come the phones, texting and talking. Even in the Musikverein one night a phone actually rang behind me and I heard the woman say to her partner, “we’ll have to leave”!! They did not return after the intermission.

  • Nick says:

    Re V. Lind’s comment, “In point of fact he works with a great many of the best in the world, suggesting that professionals who have great reputations to protect do not find him a waste of space” I suggest that inference is totally wrong. Irrespective of his stature as a pianist and artist, he is booked because he is box-office! He draws in full houses at usually higher than normal prices. For that reason, his diary is booked no doubt for much of the next few years. I have nothing against that. So, like him or not, I agree with V. Lind’s other comment that the fact he draws large audiences is good for the business of music.

  • john humphreys says:

    Oh dear – poor, poor Ravel. ‘Mother Goose’ has a wonderful, hypnotic austerity to it – here everything is bled to death and very rarely do they actually play together (a basic requirement for duettists).Just about the worst performance to cross my path. Inconsistent pulse and much of it far too fast. Lost the will to live after five minutes…

  • Padieu Isabelle says:

    These two are immense pianists, very different but extraordinary, they are playing Ravel and seem to enjoy it a lot ! They do what they want for our pleasure ! I love them <3

  • Adverture TinTin says:

    What the hell is all the hate about? Your mind interpret something as negative only because negativity is in your subconscious.