Lang Lang | The Auditorium, Rome | 25 January, 2008

There was something rather appropriate about Chinese pianist Lang Lang opening his concert on Friday night in the Santa Cecilia concert hall at the Auditorium in Rome with Mozart's Sonata K. 333; at twenty-five Lang Lang could almost be considered a veteran having given his first performance, like Mozart himself, as a child prodigy of five! The adult Lang Lang now tours the world promoting the piano and classical music - indeed, he is so passionate about the need to introduce children as early as possible to the benefits of musical tuition that he has been made a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Lang Lang excites praise for his thrilling virtuoso performances wherever he plays, along with some criticism for his flamboyant showmanship which is frowned upon in some stuffier classical music quarters! However, for me his stage presence makes Lang Lang all the more an exciting and charismatic player to one part during Schumann's Fantasia op. 17 it almost looked like he might stand up and smash the Steinway to pieces ala Hendrix or Townshend with their guitars!

Prior to opening the second half with a wonderful set of six traditional Chinese pieces transcribed for the piano (featured on his Dragon Songs CD), Lang Lang introduced and explained each song in a brief presentation in English, indulging the Italian audience with a buonasera and grazie! He then went on to play a piece from Goyescas by Granados, Liszt's transcription of The Death of Isolde from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, ending with Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.6, treating us to a surprise encore of Chopin after numerous curtain calls and rapturous applause. And yet there was more to come – after almost two hours of extraordinary intensity on stage, Lang Lang then met fans and signed CDs in the bookshop. A superstar – catch him if you can!