Prom 10 saw Antonio Pappano make the first two Proms appearances this year with the Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia in a safe programme of Mozart’s Haffner, the piano concerto by Schumann and Rachmaninov’s second symphony.
Top-billing and recipient of much well-deserved applause was soloist Jan Lisiecki who at only 18 years old demonstrated remarkable maturity in Schumann’s lyrical melodies. Fantastically fluid lines showed Lisiecki’s effortless delicate touch. A joyously exuberant third movement helped cement Lisiecki’s Proms debut as another season high-point and far and away the best piano concerto performance too.
In stark contrast, Pappano’s Rachmaninov was a hollow affair. Gone was the usual lush string sound. In its place, a much dryer string section which although on the whole was a successful stylistically, the dry sound exposed brief moments of instability between wind and strings which didn’t appear to get resolutely ironed out until the tempestuous second movement. From then on, the strings’ masterly articulation did them proud.
Even so, the necessarily strung-out longing seemed to be missing from the expansive legato sections of the often-rushed third movement (the viola ‘stings’ perhaps marked as to make them more memorable than decorative), making the subsequent fourth more of mad sprint to the end than the tension-reliever it usually feels like.