Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Sibelius
Winter has finally come to Vienna this year, which seemed like an appropriate time for the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra to perform Sibelius in the Musikverein. The orchestra, under the baton of its new chief conductor Hannu Lintu, gave appropriately idiomatic readings of the composer’s Sixth and Seventh Symphonies (and some encores), with excellent, moody and brooding playing. The great swell that is the Seventh Symphony, rising from delicate foundations into a bold Nordic chorale, with wonderfully edgy woodwinds and brash brass, marked the culmination of the concert and of the composer’s output. Sibelius wrote very little for publication after these two symphonies – and in his depression consigned all known sketches of his Eighth Symphony, which had occupied him for many years, to an open fire in the dining room of his country hut.
The concert had opened with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture #2, which the composer rejected for a number of reasons, but not because of the quality of the music. Thankfully, Beethoven did not burn it. The Finns performed this work almost as a precursor to Sibelius, starting off delicately, with a particularly cold and dark timbre to portray Florestan in his dungeon, and building into something bigger and more free.
Following the Beethoven before the intermission, pianist Alice Sara Ott joined the orchestra for Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto. Her playing was certainly dextrous and impassioned, but the music was out of place. This is a light and lyrical youthful work from Mendelssohn, which fit uneasily in an otherwise sturdy and somber program. Likewise, a similar solo encore also demonstrated her talent, but did not fit the mood, which made it rather tiresome.