Philharmonia Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi – Mendelssohn & Brahms – Andreas Haefliger plays Beethoven

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture, Op.21
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73

Andreas Haefliger (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra
Christoph von Dohnányi

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 7 June, 2012
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Christoph von DohnányiTime was, as the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Principal Conductor, when Christoph von Dohnányi was stimulating us with music by such as Adès, Birtwistle and Henze. Now that he is its Honorary Conductor for Life his profile has become not totally representative. Of course the Austro-German classics are glorious and timeless and Dohnányi is a fastidious and nourishing interpreter of them. Nevertheless we are now not getting a full view of his musical sympathies in that some pieces have become regular (next season for example he is leading his umpteenth London ‘Eroica’). This was his third Brahms 2 in five years (and all have been in June!). Certainly he is a notable exponent of this symphony (magnetic, in fact – for I have been the constant reviewer) and this account was typically superb and closely observed – perfectly paced and structured (including the first-movement exposition repeat), focused, generously unfolded, eloquent (the slow movement a stream of consciousness), lilting and exhilarating, as well as devotedly played; totally absorbing and deeply satisfying in fact.

Andreas Haefliger. Photograph: Marco BorggreveThe concert opened with Mendelssohn’s miraculous Overture after Shakespeare, given an elfin and muscular outing, Dohnányi relishing accents as much as poetry. With no loss of affection, this was a Puckish account not shy of strength of purpose. Good to have Mendelssohn’s requested ophicleide (a now-obsolete instrument belonging to the bugle family) as part of the mix rather than the ‘usual’ tuba substitute.

To Beethoven’s greatest piano concerto Andreas Haefliger (son of tenor Ernst) brought much thought, some caprice, and a clarity that gave direction without compromising phrasal yielding and poetry. Such balance of reflection and motion expressed as chamber music writ large drew the listener into a tantalisingly intangible world, dynamics never forced louder than they needed to be, the first-movement cadenza (the best-known of Beethoven’s two here regrettably intruded upon by a long-ringing mobile) a further development of already-established sentiments rather than a sideshow, the slow movement profound in its reconciliation, and the finale perfectly paced to embrace its wit and joy. Throughout, Haefliger’s engaging and enquiring way with the solo part was accompanied with care and verve, and no little intimacy, by the Philharmonia and Dohnányi.

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