Rome’s Santa Cecilia Orchestra, led by Sir Antonio Pappano, with guest soloist Martha Argerich, visited Symphony Hall on Sunday, October 22nd, performing at the rather unusual hour of 5 p.m. Going into the concert, I was overtaken by the suggestion of my title for this review. Thinking of Lorca and Hemingway, who between them immortalized the phrase “Five in the Afternoon,” in connection with bullfighting, I wondered if we concert goers were in for a strong flavor of doom, transcended through ritual and magnificence. No such thing. The concert was all beauty and vitality, though certainly with magnificence about it. This stunning event was the best orchestral concert of the fall in Boston.
Musical triumphs, like Tolstoy happy families, tend to be alike. But celebration usually breaks out following a performance, not before! I've only once witnessed the sort of screaming, foot stamping, room shaking reception Thursday's Carnegie Hall audience accorded Martha Argerich, and that was in anticipation of Sir Georg Solti's Mahler with the Chicago Symphony in the late 1960s. And fair to say, though "Solti! Solti!" always made for a great chant, screams for Argerich lasted longer. Even Karajan enthusiasts were less tireless, back in the day.
As usual for me, this was a concert I chose for the repertoire rather than the performer – three of my favourite composers and one (Liszt) I want to investigate further. It's always been pretty much just about the music(, man...), a philosophy I'd like to outgrow. There's not many 'artistes' in classical music that I feel either enthused or knowledgeable enough about to call myself a fan of yet, but one exception is Martha Argerich, who has consistently championed Sergio Tiempo and regularly performs with him. Based on this knowledge and what I'd gathered about him from reading snippets here and there, I went into his debut Southbank performance, part of their International Piano Series, with hopes that he had some of the mercuriality and fire that I love in Argerich.