London Philharmonic/Herbig Andreas Haefliger – Mozart & Bruckner

Piano Concerto No.25 in C, K503
Symphony No.9 in D minor

Andreas Haefliger (piano)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Günther Herbig

Reviewed by: Bob Briggs

Reviewed: 26 November, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Günther Herbig. Photograph: www.hughkaylor.comA visit from Günther Herbig is a much anticipated occasion and this concert was one of those special evenings which surpassed all expectations.

For the Mozart piano concerto, Herbig used a small body of strings and made it sound full and rounded, offering ample support to Andreas Haefliger who made a modern concert grand not sound like an intruder into Mozart’s world. This was a chamber-music performance, so often were the textures and playing of a very delicate and intimate nature. Of course K503 is a big work, the orchestration includes both trumpets and drums, and the piano has some impressive, and demonstrative, music, but both soloist and conductor allowed the music to unfold in its own time, and in its own way, thus the first movement was impressive but never overwhelming. The slow movement was a delight of peace and calm and the finale was full of high jinks.

Herbig is faithful to the score and doesn’t impose himself onto the music he is conducting. Therefore we were given what appeared to be a straightforward reading of Bruckner’s swansong, but, as the performance progressed, it turned out to be a reading of immense power and intellectual logic. Herbig is certainly a master of architecture. He built the music as a rational progression from beginning to end, and without the apotheosis Bruckner clearly intended at the conclusion of the unwritten finale – the sketches clearly show that this was his intention – this is no mean feat. If, as Boulez has said, Debussy’s Faune can be counted as the start of 20th-century music, then the eleven-note cataclysm of Bruckner’s Adagio must be seen as ending the 19th.Here, Herbig wasn’t nihilistic, but resigned and accepting. The opening movement was conceived in broad strokes, and the scherzo was as malevolent as one could wish. Herbig’s intelligence and insight, with the London Philharmonic on top form, made for a special event.

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