Alexander Lonquich – Mozart for Piano and Orchestra | The Auditorium, Rome | 30 March, 2010

The German-born pianist Alexander Lonquich played to a packed and enthusiastic audience in the Santa Cecilia hall at the Auditorium Parco della Musica yesterday in the second of two evenings dedicated to the piano concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On both occasions Lonquich was not only the extraordinary piano soloist, but also the guest conductor of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra. 

The evening opened with one of Mozart's most successful and famous works - The Overture to The Marriage of Figaro – and I instantly fell in love with the Austrian genius all over again. After a short interval a Steinway piano was rolled centre stage and Alexander Lonquich returned for the second part of the programme – the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) - which Mozart had also completed around about the same time as the premiere of The Marriage of Figaro. This was the first time that I'd seen Lonquich perform and found myself smiling in delight so many times at the sheer dexterity, not to mention logistical brilliance, of how he quite literally conducted the orchestra from his piano stool, on occasions leaping to his feet, and on others conducting with his left hand whilst his right played the most complex of sequences with effortless poise. The second movement - Adagio in F-sharp minor – was particularly poignant, and throughout all three movements his playing was so beautifully restrained and seamlessly phrased with that of the orchestra that I was quite simply awestruck.

The third piece of the evening was the Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major (K. 482) – again, an exercise in extraordinary elegance which was met which rapturous applause, cheers and cries of “Bravo” the very second the final notes died. Returning to the stage for an encore (a repeat performance of the wonderful second movement of K.488) Lonquich introduced the piece in Italian, pondering how on earth Mozart had managed to anticipate the work of Bellini and Sicilian opera in this work! Generous to a fault, he then returned for yet another encore – a Mozart minuet – this time inviting us to enjoy the complexities and discordant notes.

A wonderful performer!