Santa Cecilia Hall, Auditorium Parco della Musica – 1 March 2014
Fresh from sharing the stage with Metallica at the recent Grammy Awards in one of the most unlikely pairings of the ceremony, Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang was back in Rome at the weekend with the more familiar accompaniment of the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under the baton of the orchestra’s very own Sir Antonio Pappano. Certainly, the Metallica gig will do little to endear Lang Lang to music critics who abhor his showmanship – it’s hard to think of a contemporary classical musician capable of polarising critical opinion so dramatically – but there’s no denying his drawing power. For this concert at the Santa Cecilia Hall I had chosen seats behind the stage – perfect for watching Lang Lang’s hands, and noticing his constant interaction with the orchestra and conductor – and I watched amazed as the 2,800 seat hall slowly filled to sold-out capacity.
When bestselling Harry Potter author JK Rowling recently published a thriller under a pseudonym the book garnered rave reviews from critics. Reading the exaggeratedly scathing reviews of Lang Lang recordings and concerts I often wonder whether the prodigiously talented pianist should attempt a similar ruse in order to free himself from the preconceived ideas about his playing and force critics to listen without prejudice. I remain an unrepentant admirer of Lang Lang, both as a performer and as an extraordinary global ambassador for classical music. I’ve been enjoying his recent Prokofiev 3 Bartók 2 CD with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and was very much looking forward to hearing him play Prokofiev’s challenging Piano Concerto No. 3 in Rome.
|Lang Lang signing CDs after concert!|
Lang Lang’s sheer enjoyment of performing is clear, and when he returned to the stage during the thunderous applause after the concerto, we were treated to an exquisite and subtle encore of Manuel Ponce’s Intermezzo – just amazing.
The entire programme on Saturday was hugely rewarding. The afternoon opened with the debut performance by the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Meyerbeer’s Overture from Dinorah, which included a choral part sung by the Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Unseen by the audience, the choir performed outside the rear stage gallery where I was sitting. Hearing the effect of distant voices behind me was a magical experience. The concert concluded with an exhilarating performance of Symphony No. 3 in C minor by Camille Saint-Saëns, which unusually includes a pipe organ to reinforce the orchestral sound. An immensely enjoyable afternoon!
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26
Symphony No. 3 in C minor