The Lang Lang circus came to town, pitching a tent in our most exotic movie palace.

The pre-concert crush manoeuvred cautiously past fans being photographed by life-size images of their hero and, once inside, the stage had been set up with rock stadium lighting and large television screens dispensing sponsor's messages.

The advertisements stopped when Lang Lang came on to play Tchaikovsky's The Seasons, even if the lights didn't, at one point blinding us as if we had been apprehended in an illegal border crossing.

Tchaikovsky's month-by-month musical calendar is lightweight fare and Lang Lang was best in the prettiness of June's Barcarolle and October's Autumn Song, played molto rubato, with theatrically soulful glances to heaven. February's Carnival sped past, relentlessly and rigidly, while July's Reaper's Song evoked the brutal machinery of a Soviet farming collective rather than graceful pre-Revolution scythes.


The curiously amplified piano, irritating enough here, drained the poetry out of four Chopin Scherzos after interval.

At first it seemed that encores would not be forthcoming. Nine young pianists joined Lang Lang in a communal pound through Schubert's Marche Militaire, hailed by the superstar as "one of the best performances I ever played, really precise and beautiful".

His first encore was a Spring Fantasy Overture, a vulgar and banal rattle of a piece that would make the Yellow River Concerto seem like the purest Mozart.

Alas, Mozart's turn would come - a flashy rush through his Rondo alla Turca, the audience joining in with automaton hand-claps.

What: Lang Lang

Where: The Civic