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The largest work here is also the novelty: Dieter Ammann’s modestly titled The Piano Concerto – Gran Toccata, composed for Haefliger in 2016-19. It is cast in one continuous movement lasting just over half an hour, for the most part in swifttempi with torrents of notes – hence the subtitle – though there are moments of repose. Indeed, the work opens mysteriously, with a repeated pulse from the piano that gradually provokes the orchestra into an accompaniment. Soloist and orchestra are equal partners in the dynamic and lively discourse, which at times feels like a vigorous sparring session. Ammann’s harmonic language is 21st-century free-tonal, with Bartókian levels of dissonance and vigour. It is an engaging work for all its twists and turns, and Haefliger is fully attuned to its technical demands and expressive vision.

The pianist’s sense of structure and flow similarly inform his reading of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand, written in 1929- 30 for Paul Wittgenstein. The work presents formidable challenges, its solo part full of enough notes to seem two-handed. Haefliger highlights the melodies with a strong thumb. I would rate this account as scarcely less impressive than Krystian Zimerman’s classic recording with Boulez (DG 4492132), or Osborne’s 2017 Hyperion release (CDA68148).

Which leaves Bartók’s jaw-droppingly lovely Third Concerto, here sounding as fresh and delightful as the first time I heard it (Barenboim with Boulez, if memory serves). Haefliger takes it at a relatively quick pace that prevents the music becoming sentimental. It is a compelling account, made even more vivid by the superb partnership with Susanna Mälkki and the Helsinki Philharmonic. Their contribution should not be understated in all three works, providing much more than mere accompaniment. Great sound, too.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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