This past Wednesday my wife Betsy and I drove to Atlanta to hear the Atlanta Symphony with guest artist Lang Lang, the internationally popular classical pianist. I have been to many classical music concerts, but this one surpassed them all. Robert Spano led the ASO through Tchaikovsky's magnificent 5th Symphony, a work of full-blown romantic yearning balanced with bustling rhythms and racing tempos. Those who place Tchaikovsky as a second tier composer after the big three--Bach, Beethoven, Brahms--should extend their appreciation to other masters as well. Chopin was the second great romantic on the program. Though not as big or emotionally open as Tchaikovsky's 5th, Chopin's 2nd Piano Concerto (actually written first but published second) displays Chopin's melodic genuis and his brilliant musical designs.
You probably know Lang Lang as the 27 year old Chinese superstar who was the Elton John of the opening night ceremonies of the Chinese-hosted Olympics. His piano virtuosity led 40 million Chinese children to take up lessons. Lang Lang has been criticzed for being too flamboyant with his physical gestures as he plays, but in this performance he balanced showmanship with true feeling. His speed, delicacy, and pianistic fireworks created a performance that had the full house standing and cheering numerous times until he gave an encore. I can honestly say we were witnessing artitic greatness.
For those who have allowed themselves to enjoy true romantic music, my fond congratulations. For those who have not, it's not too late.