Väinö Raitio (1891-1945)

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

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

Vesipatsas (1929; ‘Waterspout’) is a witty, colourful, suggestive and exotic ballet-score that passes twenty minutes very agreeably – quixotically, with rhythmic verve, beguiling expression and vivid characterisation, if not typical of Väinö Raitio’s output for he had a modernist side that did him no favours in certain quarters. Vesipatsas was given a brilliant performance, the FRSO devouring the concerto-for-orchestra writing. (Late in his life Raitio composed five operas that seem to remain in manuscript.) Mieczysław Weinberg’s Trumpet Concerto (Opus 94; 1967; ‘Etudes’-‘Episodes’-‘Fanfares’) throws the soloist in at the deep end from the first bar with the edgy and satirical – virtuosity a prerequisite – Shostakovich-like first movement (Weinberg, from Warsaw to Moscow, befriended by the Russian) – a roulade of notes, fearlessly dispatched by Jonas Silinskas with a range of timbres and dynamics, then an intense, anxious and lonely slow movement, a flute also prominent, with the Finale cued by reference to the opening of Mahler Five (as trumpeted therein), followed by other quotations that fly by (I grabbed Mendelssohn’s MND ‘Wedding March’ and Stravinsky’s Petrushka), maybe influencing Shostakovich Fifteen (Rossini, Wagner), Weinberg’s music now hesitant until being abruptly dismissed. Silinskas gave a flawless account.

Nicholas Collon could not have been more supportive of his section principal, and following the interval he conducted the West Side Story ‘Symphonic Dances’ (Leonard Bernstein supervising the work’s seamless selecting by Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin). Included are hits from the Romeo and Juliet-inspired musical (as much dance as song), and if this wasn’t the swingiest and tensest rendition ever, it had bags of city-life energy as well as an intimate, tender then burgeoning, ‘Somewhere’ (a number that communicates universally). Finger-clicks lacked threat though, yet shouts of “mambo” were off the scale, if overall somewhat tragedy-short. Ravel’s La valse (1920) wasn’t explored for its darkness, danger or violent eruption, more for its detail and nineteenth-century glittering-society sway and indulgence, if without reaching its twentieth-century, World War I-scarred denouement.