Philharmonia Orchestra/Andras Schiff, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Schumann has not done well in anniversary celebrations. Mozart and Shostakovich have massively stolen any anniversary thunder - and so far neither the Royal Opera House nor the BBC Proms look set to offer any redress. So hats off to the Philharmonia for mounting not just a single composer concert but a programme so thoughtfully put together. This was not pot-boilers, but a concert that skilfully took into account Schumann the solo pianist, together with Schumann the composer of symphonic works.

I've often wondered why, within orchestral concerts, chamber music is never performed. The obvious answer that the hall is too big doesn't wash because solo recitals are so often presented. But with the chamber-sized Queen Elizabeth Hall providing refuge for our symphonic friends and Andras Schiff as conductor and pianist, the Philharmonia grabbed the opportunity.

Schiff gave a wonderfully quixotic Papillons for solo piano, where the 12 miniatures flashed by like butterflies. Preceding this, surrounded by the orchestra, Schiff had opened with a rarity - Schumann's Introduction and Allegro appassionato for piano and orchestra. It dates from 1849, later than the popular piano concerto but doesn't live up to it, being structurally weak and rambling.

Another, even greater rarity Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra Op. 86 was the show-stopper of the evening. Let out from their section, Nigel Black, Laurence Davies, Cormac O'hAodain and James Handy relished Schumann's perilous score, providing a colourful foil to the orchestra. Written as a single span, the slow section's wistful solo cello opening was particularly touching but it was the final sehr lebhaft, where Schumann writes arpeggios for the horns as if they were pianists, that brought the house down.

Schumann's Symphony No 4 - actually his second - enjoyed a convivial reading from Schiff, with nothing too demanding. The temperature in the hall was stifling and perhaps it was just too hot. Too bad the jackets remained on.

This concert is repeated on Thursday in the QEH

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