Wednesday, May 10, 2023

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

In the absence of a short work to open (maybe Sibelius’s Karelia Overture to complement the Klami), it was left to Yeol Eum Son to get things started with a crescendo of non-arpeggiated chords to launch Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto for a romantically flexible performance, expressive and impassioned, she and Dima Slobodeniouk in accord, he drawing warmth and detail from the Finnish Radio SO and accommodating her indulging the moment, persuasively so in the first movement and most successful in the slow one, love hanging in the air, enigmatically, and brought to a head with excitement and resolution in the Finale. Although Slobodeniouk let cymbal clashes be too noisy, and the piano’s top notes lacked sparkle, this was a nicely mixed reading of ardour, reflection, and arrival, the apotheosis cued by a powerful timpani stroke. For an extra, Yeol Eum Son gave Rachmaninov’s G-minor Prelude, Opus 32/12 (the last of his Twenty-Four), with ink-still-wet freshness.

The Oceanides – Sibelius’s musical painting of dancing nymphs while suggesting the mysteries of the deep, something lurking below, swelling here to a leviathan-like climax – was paired with the five-movement Kalevala Suite by Uuni Klami (1900-61), colourful and descriptive music, suspenseful, dramatic, idyllic, playful, clangorous, if not necessarily consistent in quality, yet engaging the listener more often than not. Slobodeniouk (with and without baton) lavished much attention on it and received a dedicated response from the FRSO.