Pianist Lauren Zhang was 16 years old when she won BBC Young Musician in 2018 with a “daring, gravity-defying” performance that astonished critics and audience alike. Here she makes her first appearance with the BBC SSO under Mark Wigglesworth – the conductor of that prize-winnning performance – and she’s performing Rachmaninov’s epic Third Concerto: the so-called “Everest of piano concertos”, and a work that demands poetry as well as breathtaking panache. It’s almost impossible to follow that, so Wigglesworth begins the concert with two gloriously imaginative orchestral works, both rooted in Russian tradition. Alissa Firsova is the daughter of two important Russian composers, and ‘Die Windsbraut’ (‘The Bride of the Wind’) takes inspiration from a painting by Oscar Kokoschka to celebrate the passionate life of Alma Mahler – a musical evocation of the sumptuous, doomed world of fin-de-siècle Vienna. And Prokofiev originally planned his Seventh and final Symphony as a sort of musical fairytale for children. Rarely performed today, it casts a spell that goes far darker and deeper.
Prelude: 6.45pm in the Recital Room (free to ticket-holders, subject to seating availability): pianist Lauren Zhang and tonight's conductor Mark Wigglesworth in conversation with BBC SSO violinist Alex Gascoine.
The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. The presenter is Kate Molleson.