Outi Tarkiainen

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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

The opening of Berlioz’s Corsaire Overture was a bit of a scramble, the slow lyrical music that follows expansively expressive; after which it was an alert performance that romped along, without glossing over finer aspects of articulation, to an exuberant final lap, athletic brass. Urgency and textural clarity informed Brahms’s First Symphony. Nicholas Collon kept things moving along, avoiding indulgence, traditional slowing and heaviness, a light-footed approach (orchestra not reduced, seven basses) that didn’t negate emotions, a first movement in which introduction and exposition (repeated) were indivisible, passions accruing, rhythms buoyant, and although the tempo for the Andante matched the marking, it felt a little restricted despite some fine woodwind and violin solos, yet the succeeding intermezzo was nicely easeful, and the large-scale Finale, if lacking a degree of ceremony, was certainly resolute journeying to the triumphant coda, maybe not as hard-won as needed if more or less in one tempo, avoiding bombast.

As centrepiece, the premiere of Outi Tarkiainen’s Milky Ways, opening with trills from the solo instrument, the full orchestra (including piano, harp and celesta) supplying enchantment, suspense and atmosphere, subtle percussion colour, too, while Nicholas Daniel offered poetic melodies followed by a more-animated if shadowy second movement with a touch of drama, crowned by ‘At the Fountainhead of God’, mysterious. Daniel, dressed in a milk-white sort-of-overcoat, beads around his neck, addressed his English horn/cor anglais with mastery and sensitivity, moving to the back of the orchestra for the final measures hallmarked by ethereal violins and chimes. Milky Ways is an engaging listen and about the right length, twenty minutes, for what it does.