The big drawcard in this concert was the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who has visited Australia a number of times. A local favourite in Sydney ever since he played Ravel’s complete solo piano works over an afternoon and evening in the Town Hall, Thibaudet has even played this concerto previously with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (in 2010). The last of the piano concertos by Camille Saint-Saëns, it was dubbed “The Egyptian” because of the somewhat oriental bent of a theme in the slow movement; otherwise it resembles the other four concertos in its brilliant, busily decorative piano part. Needless to say, Thibaudet’s immaculate, stylish and dazzling facility at the keyboard paid dividends in this work (which he has also recorded, along with the more popular Piano Concerto No 2). The pianist gave us an encore of Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante d éf unte, which was beautifully weighted – although last night it felt as though we were listening to it in a tuberculosis sanatorium.

The visiting Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste opened the concert with a lush, carefully balanced performance of Debussy’s sublime Prélude à l’après -midi d’un faune, expressively launched by guest musician, flautist Francisco Lopez. Debussy’s colours, especially the subtle string...