How bad is it? Right from the colossal chords that open Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, it's bad. Lang Lang starts slow and gets slower until he nearly stops the music, destroying the rhythmic intensity and the harmonic tension. When Valery Gergiev brings in the Orchestra of the Marinsky Theatre, the tempo snaps into place for the first theme and Gergiev holds the music at tempo until the second theme. Then, once again, Lang starts slow and gets slower until he's nearly stopped the music, destroying the lyrical line and the momentum. When Gergiev brings the Orchestra back in, the tempo snaps back into place for the development and Gergiev keeps the music at tempo until the cadenza. Then, once again, Lang starts slow and gets slower until he's nearly stopped the music, destroying the formal drama and the structural integrity. And so it goes for the rest of the Concerto, with Gergiev holding to the tempo and Lang slowing to a stop until the music is ultimately tattered and torn between them.
It's not that Lang lacks the technique. The billions of notes of Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody are in place. It's not that Lang lacks the tone. The depth of sound of the Andante Cantabile Variation is enormous. It's that Lang lacks the taste and temperament. His playing is self-amused and self-indulgent. He's so enraptured by his own playing that he starts slow to show off and he gets slower to admire his own performance. It's narcissism as an interpretive strategy. Deutsche Grammophon is dark and hooded.