reviews Leif Ove Andsnes’ performance of Debussy’s Fantaisie, for piano and orchestra with the London Philharmonic and Vladimir Jurowski

“Debussy was less than pleased with his Fantaisie (1890), cancelling the premiere during rehearsals and, although tinkering on and off, not allowing publication or performances during his lifetime. It only reached a concert in 1919, in London, with Alfred Cortot, a year after Debussy’s death. One can understand his reluctance to have it aired as it has few of his traits. But it is attractive (in part), and Leif Ove Andsnes did the revisions published in 1968 proud, playing with an insouciant ‘first among equals’ touch, impeccable technique and bags of personality. The first movement, with its sultry beginning and Spring-day freshness, could be more likely thought of as being by Delius, and the slow central one slumbered peacefully (near the end the horns have a few bars not far removed from La mer, which suggests that Debussy was updating Fantaisie at regular intervals). If the Finale is the weakest movement and gets progressively less interesting here was an example of a performance being better than the piece itself. As an encore, just like Peter Donohoe had done a few weeks ago, Andsnes offered Tango in its original piano guise (1940); it works much better in black and white terms.