Raitio, Schumann, Sibelius

Although not well-known, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra is a fine ensemble, always worth marking in the calendar when it comes on tour, and especially to perform Sibelius.

Tonight it arrived for a two-day visit in the Musikverein, under Jukka-Pekka Saraste.  It opened with The Swans by Väinö Raitio, an eccentric early-20th century Finnish composer (actually, I think all Finnish composers are eccentric) – definitely glad I heard it and would go hear more music by him if I ever see it performed.

This was followed by Schumann‘s piano concerto, a piece I have not heard live since I played first trumpet in my high school orchestra.  But there is a good reason I haven’t gone to hear this piece live: despite a promising melodic first half of the first movement, it is an interminably dull work.  Not even a good performance can rescue this truly boring concerto (and this was indeed a good performance, with a Hungarian pianist, Dezsö Ránki, as soloist).

After the intermission, the orchestra performed the Lemminkäinen Suite by Sibelius, a work I am very fond of (and not performed often enough), and a fine performance at that.  The opportunity to hear something by Raitio and to hear Lemminkäinen are the reasons I suffered through the Schumann concerto, and were worth the suffering.  (Sibelius’ Valse Triste was the encore.)

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