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.)