Picture it this way

MUSIC; Andreas Haefliger QEH, London
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The young Swiss pianist Andreas Haefliger gets no prizes for programme- planning. On Sunday afternoon he offered Beethoven's first Sonata, Schubert's second set of Impromptus and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The only possible justification for such an unimaginative choice could have been playing of exceptional quality, andthat's what we got.

Haefliger is both a very polished pianist,and an artist with unusually mature judgement. He asserted his authority in Beethoven's early firecracker with sobriety and restraint, suggesting, with his deliberately lightened left hand, the Viennese pianos of Beethoven's day, though his rich colouring in the slow movement took advantage of the modern Steinway. Here, too, he showed the sort of confidence in shaping an expressive line, as well as the emotional warmth, that sustained his Schubert Impromptus in the manner of a much older artist. In the variations of No 3, he obviously enjoyed showing off refined shadings of touch; while, in the gypsy swirls of No 4, he bonded discipline and panache withstylish crispness.

So few pianists do justice to the character of Mussorgsky's Pictures, it's a wonder they remain so popular, though who knows if halls wouldn't be fuller if they weren't played? Haefliger had a fine sense both of Mussorgsky's rugged power - he fairly raised the roof with the opening and closing hymns - and of the more subtle aspects of his character-painting. The plaintive minstrel musing of "Il vecchio castello", the clumsy weight of the Polish ox-wagon, the manic chirruping of the unhatched chicks - all were vividly colourful and sharply detailed. There seemed no limits to the resources of Haefliger's touch.