Brussels Philharmonic/Michel Tabachnik at Cadogan Hall – 1 – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Jeux, Daphnis and Chloe … Andreas Haefliger plays Ravel G major

L’apprenti sorcier
Piano Concerto in G
Jeux – poème dansé
Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No.2

Andreas Haefliger (piano)

Brussels Philharmonic
Michel Tabachnik

Reviewed by: Alan Sanders

Reviewed: 21 February, 2014
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Andreas Haefliger. Photograph: Marco BorggreveThe Brussels Philharmonic, founded in 1935, is described as “an instrument of the Flemish community”. Since 2008 its chief conductor has been the now 71-year-old Michel Tabachnik. This concert was the first of three on consecutive evenings by the BP and its conductor as part of Cadogan Hall’s Zürich International Orchestra series.

It was a brave decision to start with Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a notoriously difficult piece to play. Though it comes into the category of ‘popular classics’ we don’t hear this extravagantly scored masterpiece live very often. Tabachnik adopted a slightly cautious tempo for the main scherzo, but it was at once clear that the Brussels Philharmonic is a very capable ensemble, and with wonderful surprise, it sounds very much like a French orchestra of long ago, with a lean, very individual quality of sound from the woodwinds and in the brass – with no homogenous blending of tones in the modern fashion and even a touch of vibrato from the horns. Lovely!

Andreas Haefliger gave a very balanced performance of Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto. He showed plenty of spirit and technique in the outer movements, but didn’t treat them as showpieces as some pianists do, and his shaping of the slow movement was very beautiful.

After the interval came the highlight of the evening – a near-perfect performance of Debussy’s masterly Jeux. As an experienced conductor of avant-garde scores, this work’s forward-looking, kaleidoscopic changes of metre, tempo and timbre come naturally to Tabachnik, and he confidently steered the work over its 16-minute span without using a score. There seems almost to have been a Ravel festival in London over the last ten days or so, and here again was the Second Daphnis and Chloe Suite, played with splendour and exciting flair by the Brussels musicians. It formed an ideal conclusion (although there was an incongruous Brahms Hungarian Dance as an encore) to a richly satisfying evening.

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