LUCERNE: Switzerland's City of Music Festivals

Article excerpt

Judith Monk attended the Piano Festival

Attending the Lucerne Piano Festival in late November of last year was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my year. The nature of magazine publishing leaves little time between issues for pleasure so I was restricted to only staying a couple of days. But what a wonderful two that became!

Zurich Airport is pure friendliness and efficiency as is the train system in Switzerland. Arriving in Lucerne as Christmas festivities approached, my eyes were treated to all manner of lovely seasonal decorations, not least the three huge, glittering, crystal chandeliers in the railway station entrance.

The first sight of Lake Lucerne, nesded in front of the Alps, widi its wonderful new concert hall perched alongside is enough to leave you breathless. How the huge canopy roof, seemingly reach ing far out over the water, remains in place is down to a major feat of modern engineering; the effect is amazing.

The Culture & Congress Centre or KKL Luzern was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The KKL ranks as one of the most spectacular modern buildings in Switzerland, comprising three different spaces - a carefully acoustically engineered concert hall, a flexible space for concerts and conferences and an art gallery. The building is divided by long pools of water where the lake is drawn into its heart. There are huge glass windows that let you look out onto the lake in a way that makes you feel the building is floating on it.

Russell Johnson of Artec Consultants in New York was responsible for the concert hall's acoustics, which have received endless accolades. The walls are lined with bright, white acoustic panels patterned in a waffle effect. These can be moved to accommodate any particular acoustic requirement. The hall is also finished in warm golden red wood. Seating 1 ,840 patrons it is comfortable and roomy. Featuring heavily in Lucerne's Spring and Summer Festivals the hall is home to the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and was opened in August 1998 'Y with a performance by them.

It was here in the KKL Luzern on 22 November that I heard the young Chinese pianist Lang Lang play. It seems impossible that he was only born in 1982! His programme opened with Mozart's Sonata in C major K 330 which he played with a youdiful mixture of nonchalance and showmanship. The Horowitz version of Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody could have been written as a display piece for this young virtuoso and it drew prolonged applause from the capacity crowd. Not only was Lang Lang's appearance blamed for the fact that there was not a single hotel room free in Lucerne that night but the organisers also put about 30 patrons on the stage with the pianist in an effort to appease everyone who wanted a ticket. Works by Chopin and Rachmaninov followed along with Schumann's Kinderszenen. Lang Lang concluded his recital with a series of encores of Chinese music, based on folk songs. …