Reviews and Features
“Martin Leung is the Video Game Pianist. Martin uses his talents to play music from video games. On the Internet, this is not a waste of talent. Martin was one of the first musicians online to spread videos of himself performing video game music.
This fame of being simply a good piano player wasn’t enough for Martin, so he created a new persona: The Blindfolded Pianist. He would play music blindfolded.
I am proud to say that Albino Blacksheep was the first site Martin contacted at this point. He asked me to host a video of himself playing the Super Mario Bros. theme while blindfolded. I am ashamed to say I had to politely reject the video due to technical restraints that Albino Blacksheep had with streaming large video files at the time. I directed him to ABS’s friend-site, gprime to host the ten minute and thirty-seven second video.
Martin Leung’s current project is Video Games Live where whole orchestras fill stadiums and halls to play music from video games.” – AlbinoBlacksheep, ca. 14 October 2007AlbinoBlacksheep_VideoGamePianist_article2
“[Martin’s] renditions of the theme from “Sonic the Hedgehog” and other video game classics win whoops and encores – 21 alone during a performance at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Texas. At the Hollywood Bowl in 2005, the Orange County, Calif., native roared through a selection from “Final Fantasy” before a screaming crowd of 11,000 with nary a sweat stain on his thrift store tux.
A ‘modern-day Chopin’ who loves video games…
Martin is the perfect icon for the maturing video game music scene — an appealing blend of the profound and the profane.
…the Glenn Gould for the gaming set.” – Andrea Simakis, The Cleveland Plain DealerTheClevelandPlainDealer_13-3-2006
“Mario Solo Piano Medley” [recorded by Martin Leung] takes a more subtle approach, capitalizing on one of the time-tested ways to determine whether a piece of music is robust enough to withstand scrutiny, which is to strip it down to its barest components.
Sometimes it works even when stripping it down means beefing it up, which is what happens when Martin Leung transports the themes from the Super Mario franchise to a lone piano. It’s a far richer instrument than the 8-bit processor of the Nintendo Entertainment System from which the familiar tune traditionally emanates, and it reveals just how much composer Koji Kondo inserted into what might have been a throwaway project.
The (literally) playful jaunt serves as nostalgia fuel for those who wasted their afterschool hours terrorizing digital turtles, of course, but Leung’s arrangement, straightforward though it may be, also underlines Kondo’s wit and invention. The piano brings to the fore elements of ragtime and calypso that might have gone unnoticed, and there are points when the medley sounds like it could be a lost segment of Rhapsody in Blue. Unlike many more dramatic Video Games Live tracks, “Mario Solo Piano Medley” invites appreciation without making listeners feel like they’ve been smacked on the head with a slab of bricks.” – Marc Hirsh, NPRNPR_19-01-2011
“Martin Leung … has achieved a certain amount of fame on the internet as the “Blindfolded Video Game Pianist” …He was launched into celebrity at age 17 … by a video clip of him playing, blindfolded, the theme of “Super Mario Bros.” …At one video game performance he was encouraged to give 21 encores.
…The fleet-fingered Mr. Leung gave a thoughtful and compelling interpretation of [Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, “Pathétique”]. …One felt dramatic power, sensitive nuance, and moments of sheer poetry.
…[The “Lyric Pieces” by Edvard Grieg] requires the kind of knuckle-busting technique of which Mr. Leung had so much to spare.
…rapturously joyous and completely engaging…
…Mr. Leung drew out of [the Spianato from Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise, Op. 22] all of its exquisite beauty. The polonaise was full of glitter and nationalistic feeling.
…Mr Leung gave a colorful performance, varied and played with an astonishing technical assurance. In the Beethoven he reached into the depths of the piano for the sublime and brought out the intimations of it that the audience expected.
In the Grieg he found wit, tenderness, and moments of the grotesque; in the Chopin he served up a heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism. And his video game music is an indication that he is more than a little playful. He is clearly a pianist to watch.” – Fred Volkmer, The Southampton Press, Eastern EditionTheSouthamptonPressEasternEdition
“It is a sign of the times that a YouTube sensation would help create one of the most buzz-worthy nights with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in recent memory.
…And an almost capacity, very enthusiastic audience showed that music from the past played by a rising talent of the future is an excellent direction of the symphony.
…the Orange County, Calif., musician first captured the imagination of audiences around the world with a YouTube video of him performing an arrangement of the Super Mario Brothers theme wearing a blindfold. It is estimated the clip has garnered more than 40 million hits.”
…refined young man…
…broad, easy smile…joyful energy.
…Leung plays with his whole body — his shoulders jumping playfully, his head tilting back for serene passages and even hovering menacingly over the keyboard for darker musical moments. It is not overdone, just enough to draw the audience into the emotion of the performance.
…precise, skilled attack of the keyboard.
…Leung is not just a success on the web, but someone who debuted at Carnegie Hal at age 16.”
…Having charmed even the most conservative classical music lovers in the audience, Leung’s encore performance of the Super Mario Brothers melody was received with delighted laughter and more enthusiastic cheers.” – Heather Persson, The StarPhoenixTheStarPhoenix_17-1-2011
“When Leung was 17, he created a sensation when he posted a video of himself playing an arrangement of the Super Mario Brothers theme on the piano while blindfolded. It has received an estimated 40 million hits. “Things started from there,” he says. “It was unreal how many people saw it. It was all over the internet.” — Heather Persson, The StarPhoenixTheStarPhoenix_12-1-2011
“Martin Leung is known best for his performances of music from video games, videos of which have had great success on the Internet. But on Saturday night he showed Regina that he is also an amazing classical musician.
A great performer to watch, Leung’s delivery of the work, which is technically very difficult, was wonderful.
He said in advance of the concert that the concerto highlights both the soloist and the orchestra, and it was clear during the show how balanced he was with the RSO.
The many sounds complemented each other beautifully, and delighted sighs could be heard, thanks to the great acoustics of the Conexus Arts Centre, coming up from throughout the audience as he performed.
The audience was on its feet for a standing ovation as soon as Leung finished the concerto, and gave him a second one before the night was over.
He gave an encore of the Super Mario Bros. medley, for which he was famous, his amazing showmanship on full display, infusing his performance with humour that elicited laughter from the audience. – Joe Couture, Regina Leader-PostTheReginaLeader-Post_14-3-2011
Nightlife Montreal Interview, ca. October 2004NightlifeMontreal Interview_ca_10-2004
Name and likeness used in “Who Will be the Future Martin Leung?” [Click here to go to the video announcement on a Facebook page]. The internet music competition was sponsored by dailymotion, Paris, France.
Contestant entries [Click here to see contestant entries on a dailymotion page]
“Martin Leung, a pianist who gained fame on YouTube, brought down the house with his signature blindfolded performance of the theme from Super Mario Brothers.” – Seth Schiesel, The New York TimesTheNewYorkTimes_26-10-2009
“…Martin Leung totally rocks the house.” – Chris Kohler, WiredWired_4-4-2007
“Video game pianist Martin Leung’s solo performance of Tetris tunes [on the Video Games Live Vol. 1 album] is also excellent.” – Chris Kohler, WiredWired_15-08-2008
“Leung achieved a staggering degree of Internet fame with a six-minute video of himself pounding out solo piano renditions of multiple tunes from Super Mario Bros. and its myriad sequels. He starts off wearing a blindfold, actually, dramatically flinging it off and flipping on his glasses before stomping through the eerie, spacious crypto-jazz of Level 1-2 (you know, the dark blue subterranean one). Leung’s site now includes a 10- minute version of the Mario Medley, climaxing when he mimics the series’ penchant for jacking up the tempo as time runs out. It’s a hilarious, jaw-dislocating virtuoso performance. It also represents Leung’s artistic crusade.” – Rob Harvilla, Phoenix New TimesPhoenixNewTimes_9-2-2006
“Kingdom Hearts, Sonic, and World of Warcraft came next, followed by video game pianist Martin Leung’s solo piano medley of Final Fantasy music. VGL co-creator Tommy Tallarico’s music was represented with a suite from Advent Rising, and themes from the ever-popular Super Mario Bros. series came soon after. Leung encored that with another Super Mario all-piano
rendition complete with power up sound effects. Thursday’s performance even included him playing blindfolded and an additional piano version of Tetris.
Tallarico, Wall, and Leung were part of the free meet-and-greet after the show where people could get their programs or posters autographed, and quite a few people stayed in line for that before going home.” – Alex Van Zelfden, IGNIGN_29-6-2007
“Although the show as a whole was a study in a multimedia experience, there were a couple of piano solos by Internet pioneer Martin Leung that garnered some of the loudest cheers. Leung … got his fingers running up the piano keys with a “Final Fantasy” suite. Then, in the second act, he performed, perfectly and blindfolded, a medley from “Super Mario.”” – Scott Iwasaki, Deseret NewsDeseretNews_29-3-2008
“Martin Leung, the “video game pianist” famous for a blindfolded medley of “Mario” tunes, appeared several times to pound the keys of a full-size piano (blindfolded at one point, of course, to a standing ovation).” – Julio Ojeda-Zapata, St. Paul Pioneer PressStPaulPioneerPress_11-4-2010
“…pianist Martin Leung does the blindfolded performance of the Mario theme that made him a YouTube celebrity” – Dave Barker, The Boston PhoenixTheBostonPhoenix_25-11-2008
“Nowhere were the contrasting motifs of video-game music more evident than the transition from jubilant – and blindfolded – Internet sensation Martin Leung’s buoyant rendition of the theme to “Super Mario Brothers” to his later knockout performance of the emotional “Final Fantasy” theme, a layered symphony in itself.” – Eric Nierstedt, The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains – Fanwood TimesTheWestfieldLeader_8-1-2009
“If you want to turn a teenager on to the world of classical than you must not miss pianist Martin Leung who mixes up his classical pieces with interpretations of music from popular video games. At the Southampton Cultural Center, Leung brilliantly swung from a rhapsodic Piano Sonata in C by Beethoven to a wild interpretation of a Pac Man game. No wonder his You Tube site is one of the most heavily trafficked in their history! The evening was a pure delight with a Chopin Polonaise juxtaposed with the Mario Brothers theme.” – Nicole B. Brewer, Hamptons.comHamptons.com_18-4-2007
“Much like how any kind of video game creation tool becomes a race to recreate World 1-1 from “Super Mario Bros.,” musical talent combined with geekery becomes a test to reproduce Koji Kondo’s classic Mario music. A video of Leung performing a medley of Mario music – blindfolded – went viral, leading to him performing nationwide with a number of orchestras, including the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.” – “10 must-sees of Indiana Comic Con” by Channing King, IndyStarIndyStar_11-03-2015
“[Tommy] Tallarico: … ‘We have Martin ‘The Video Game Pianist’ Leung and he’s going to be debuting a medley of Rare game music, including Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie. …” – Rick Damigella, G4TVG4TV_19-5-2012
Frequently Asked Questions at Gprime.netGprime_08-12-2004
“I was thrilled by his Star Wars medley and his Super Mario arrangement. After his regular set he took requests and performed the original Tetris theme insanely fast, a lushly textured version of the theme from Halo, plus a few more. He seemed to be having the time of his life, which is basically how I felt all weekend.” – DrunkCameraGuy, Creative Loafing TampaCreativeLoafingTampa_6-8-1014
“And, back by popular demand, 19 year‐old Martin Leung, known around the globe as the Video Game PIanist, will play theme songs from some of the most popular video games, including World of WarCraft and Kingdom Hearts II.” – Susie Wade, BradyGamesBusinessWire_4-5-2006
“I even got a small clip of the recreation of the YouTube video that made him famous. … I was so impressed by the crowd for the appreciation that they had for the video game music in piano and a little classical music in there too.” – Game Addict HotlineGameAddictHotline_2006
” The appearances of the American star pianist Martin Leung are particularly well worth hearing. For several years now, the exceptional 21-year-old talent has dedicated himself almost exclusively to the performance of well-known game melodies such as Earthworm Jim, Zelda and Final Fantasy. Leung’s international breakthrough came in 2004 when he first performed the Super Mario title song blindfolded.” – Prodigal (/members/Prodigal), Curse.comCurse_29-2-2008
“one of the first Musician, the international fame by playing themes Known video games. He made his breakthrough Year 2004 with a video of him on the Internet, in which he created the Title melody of “Super Mario World” blindfolded.” [text Google-translated from German to English] – 4Players GmbH4PlayersDe
“My favorite segment was by Martin Leung (AKA the Blindfolded Pianist, AKA Video Game Pianist), he wowed us all with his soothing performance of a Final Fantasy mix. He later re-appeared on stage to play some Mario themes, BLINDFOLDED as if it was child’s play! He finally proved to the Middle East that his slight of hand is no mere cheap trick, but the result of years of practice and dedication! A standing ovation by the audience was no short task for his stunning performance!” – DoCWaSaBe, Game OverviewsGameOverviews_15-12-2012
“Tout à l’heure, sur le stand, je vois un bonhomme dont la tête me dit quelque chose. Il était en train de jouer à Akanoïd sur C64 depuis un moment. Révélation : C’est Martin leung ! Il fait des mini concerts de piano plusieurs fois par jour, durant lesquels il interprète quelques airs célèbres du monde du Jeu Vidéo. Pendant notre discussion, il m’a dit que notre stand était son préféré du salon (normal) mais surtout qu’il serait présent au Video Games Live de Paris le 18 Décembre. Je lui ai donc proposé de venir nous rendre une petite visite dans nos locaux ! Il était apparemment très intéressé. Ce serait un vrai plaisir de le recevoir !” – CSKi, MO5.comMO5_24-8-2008
“The Theta Music Winter Games 2013 were held January 10-11. Congratulations to our Top 5 Finishers:
- videogamepianist (US): 371″ – Theta Music Winter Games 2013 [an international online ear-training competition]
“Winter Games 2014 Leader Board
- videogamepianist [2,545 Points]” – Theta Music Winter Games 2013 [an international online ear-training competition]
Harvard Musical IQ Test – 136, 99.18 percentile, Proof-of-Score video