I'm amazed," says 15-year-old Anna Jones. "It's as if he's brought Beethoven back to life." Jones is one of more than 100 young people on stage at London's Royal Festival Hall for one of Maurizio Pollini's recitals of Beethoven piano sonatas.
Her enthusiasm is shared by a fellow student from Walthamstow School for Girls, Nadya Wood. "Pollini's hands move so fast and he never misses a note," she says.
A series of seven recitals by Pollini, during which he is playing all the Beethoven sonatas in chronological order, continues until June, with a day-long forum on the composer later this month.
A feature of the series is that young people under 25 are offered seats at Pounds 3 within yards of the stage. "Being close to the instrument enables you to become immersed in the sounds," says 16-year-old Dan Parmenter from University College School. "Pollini doesn't colour up the music. The sound is pure and it's as if Beethoven is speaking rather than Pollini."
After the recital, Pollini smilingly denies such compliments from his youthful audience. But he values their proximity. "It's fantastic to have all these young people here on stage," he says. "A relationship has emerged between us and I'd like to talk with them."
To this end, a question and answer session between Pollini and his young admirers has been arranged during the Beethoven Forum. What, though, about those young people for whom Beethoven apparently has no appeal? "I think their response would be better if the music was more successfully promoted," he says. "I know the work of great composers like Beethoven can be difficult to follow. But this wonderful music has so much to say to this generation."
What does he make of the fact that the school music curriculum in Britain focuses on "world" and popular genres as much as on Western classical music? "Learning about music from different countries is good," he says. "Jazz is interesting too. But if only young people were able to learn more about classical music they'd soon learn how good it is."
Student Dan Parmenter has learned a lot about Beethoven from Pollini. "I've been to all the concerts in the series and seen how Beethoven's composition progressed as he grew older," he says. "As a composer, he can be blindingly inventive and unpredictable. Yet Pollini seems to understand exactly what Beethoven is on about. It's the most extraordinary music I've ever heard. "
Pollini Beethoven sonatas series: May 20 and June 15, Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm. Beethoven Forum: May 17, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 9.30am to 5pm with Pollini Young Persons Event at 5.30pm. tickets: 0171 960 4242