Saturday, January 21, 2023

Orchestra Hall, Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

This DSO concert concluded with Sibelius’s Symphony No.1, conducted with individuality by Tabita Berglund (no relation to Paavo, by the way, and anyway she is Norwegian and he was Finnish). Opening with a haunting clarinet solo, underpinned by quiet if ominous timpani – unconducted by Berglund (Lydia Tár would not have been so democratic or accommodating) – the ensuing tutti was intense and electrifying, the first movement impassioned and volatile, arguably too held-back at times if always suspenseful (including during silences) and emotionally direct. The slow movement was languorous, making the midpoint upheaval all the more dramatic, yet by now it was becoming clear that Berglund is prone to exaggerate tempo and dynamic contrasts if no doubting her ability to obtain unanimous, incisive and committed playing. The Scherzo flew by (the coda even more so), the Trio dragged, and – attacca – the ‘Quasi una fantasia’ Finale gave Berglund every opportunity to make something of everything: not always convincing if alive and compelling as to what she would do next. In a word, extremes, if with conviction and results, and confidence … and certainly well-liked by the DSO.

As for the Nature-inspired Metacosmos, it parades much colour and effects, and is pictorial in offsetting beauty with fragility, quite expressively at times, with a soul, yet the ratio between sound and substance leans a little too much towards the former. There are though some lovely things that clearly display Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s concern for our home, the only one we’ve got, Planet Earth, although maybe there is not enough warning in the music that we could be doomed; furthermore, musically, and despite the composer’s good intentions, even fifteen minutes seemed on the long side.

Prokofiev’s Opus 125, one of many works composed for Rostropovich, is an expansive creation, perhaps oddly designed with ten-minute outer movements framing a variety-filled central panel of twenty. It’s full of characteristic invention, however – bold statements, singing lines, rhythmic panache, edgy summonses, thoughtful intimacies – which Edgar Moreau played with music-serving virtuosity, rich tone (sometimes plangent), and total identification, Berglund and the DSO offering a detailed and tactile partnership of Prokofiev’s tight-knit writing, whether solo strings, heavy brass or perky oboe: the faster music bristled, the slower ideas touched the heart. Plenty to admire and be engaged by. Moreau’s Bach encore – either a Sonata slow movement or a Suite ‘Sarabande’ – ravished the senses.

Berglund in Bournemouth: Paavo Berglund’s pioneering recording (HMV SLS 807; 2 LPs; 1970) of Sibelius’s Kullervo. Plus Sibelius’s The Oceanides.

Paavo Berglund conducts Sibelius’s Tapiola with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; undated.

Edgar Moreau with Lucerne Symphony Orchestra & Michael Sanderling record Transmission for Erato – music by Bloch, Bruch, Korngold, Ravel.

Next DSO webcast

Music Director Laureate Leonard Slatkin conducts DSO in program of Brahms, Stravinsky, and Bartók with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, February 3-4.