Friday, January 27, 2023

Concert Hall, Helsinki Music Centre, Mannerheimintie 13 A, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

This webcast – sporting first-class sound and picture throughout – concluded with Rachmaninov’s First Symphony (1897/1945), David Robertson and the Finnish Radio SO giving a dramatic, intense and expressive reading that left in no doubt the stature of a work that, at his death, the composer believed lost. It’s a powerful opus, motif-linked, passionate and personal, delicate and melancholic at times, grand and thrilling at others, doom-laden in the final measures – all (storytelling) moods vibrantly captured here, Robertson with no need to use the extra percussion (perhaps added by Golovanov?) that a few conductors take disadvantage of.

As centrepiece, John Adams’s snazzily titled ‘piano concerto’, my third attempt at it (this was the second, This third rendition grew the piece somewhat on me, funky music to be sure, plenty of rhythmic verve and vivid/punchy scoring, with no respite for ten or so minutes, which makes the middle section an oasis of dreamy calm until the unrelenting stuff returns. Fewer doubts this time, then, aided by a terrific performance from Orli Shaham, who swallowed the multitude of notes with classy bravura and innate musicianship, also a model of sensitive and shapely expression elsewhere, and with a notable rapport between her and Robertson (Mr & Mrs), the Finnish RSO valiant in dedicated support, swing and syncopation to the fore. For an encore, Shaham offered “something calm”, J. S. Bach’s B-minor Prelude as arranged by Siloti, beautifully turned.

Opening the concert, from its misty if busy beginning to its scintillating conclusion fifteen minutes later, György Ligeti’s San Francisco Polyphony (premiered on January 8, 1975; SF Symphony/Seiji Ozawa) teases and intrigues the ear with a range of colours, interweaving detail and allusions – micro-managed in its making yet seemingly spontaneous when recreated – the latter quality particularly apparent in this finely judged account, notes lifting off the pages, which took the stratospheric highs, rapidity and swarms of sounds in their stride.