Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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

Sakari Oramo has already distinguished himself as an interpreter of Ravel’s music, and Once again, he excelled in the complete score for Daphnis et Chloé, from the off atmospheric and suggestive, fine solos from flute, horn and oboe helping to set the scene, the rest of the FRSO seductive in timbre and phrase, the vocalise of the Helsinki Music Centre Choir adding an aura and a further layer of colour. Oramo favours a slow-burn approach to Daphnis, without losing tension, encouraging a ravishing response, vivid characterisations, and precise detailed playing to match Ravel’s own fastidiousness, conjuring enchantment, volatility, picturesqueness, excitement (rambunctious pirates, deliriously wild), time of day (an expansive ‘Daybreak’), passions (when the named pair run to each other and trumpets project their reunited kiss) rounded by exquisite pantomimic flute-playing and general rejoicing, a rip-roaring and ecstatic choral and orchestral bacchanal to bring the curtain down on a compelling fifty-six-minute performance.

The concert opened with György Ligeti’s Lontano, chord clusters and rarefied textures emanating from somewhere unknown, instruments not always identifiable such are Ligeti’s registrations (a large orchestra without percussion), getting louder, threateningly, before retreating to nothingness (somebody’s coughs were intrusively louder), advancing again, chillingly, fading once more, hovering in suspense, long mysterious silence … a beautifully judged rendition that pertinently cued Kaija Saariaho’s Saarikoski Songs, for Anu Komsi, setting five poems by Pentti Saarikoski (1937-83) originally for voice and piano and recently orchestrated in characteristic ethereal/chiming fashion (premiered in Boston, Andris Nelsons conducting), music that paints pictures in different ways and moods (wonderment, poignant, dramatic), always engaging in expression, Komsi superb at negotiating florid and stratospheric vocal lines and – even with the Finnish texts beyond me – word-painting.