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SEEN AND HEARD
UK CONCERT REVIEW
Elina Vähälä (violin), London Schools Symphony Orchestra. Leif Segerstam,
Barbican Hall London 7.1.2009 (GD)
Sibelius: Symphony No 7 in C, op.105
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, op.47
Segerstam: Symphony No 189, Marimekko (first performance)
Sibelius: Finlandia, op.26/7
Elina Vähälä - Picture © Laura Riihelä Potkastudios
The concert opened with a truly inspired delivery of Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony. As his recordings demonstrate, Segerstam is a master of Sibelius’s symphonic architectural structure. I have rarely heard the great themes, punctuated by the broad trombone idea, delivered with such an inevitability and power. This was not power in the sense of mere loudness or whipped up energy but something emerging inexorably from the work’s tonal/harmonic structure, rather in the ‘magisterial’ manner we used to hear with Klemperer. The final minor key clash of dissonance which shatters the preceding C major’s ring of hope was as convincingly conveyed as I have ever heard in concert or on record. The young players excelled themselves, and despite some slight problems of ensemble, their sheer musicality and enthusiasm won through with Segerstam taking them into regions of musical/emotional complexity well beyond their years. Indeed, the general excellence of their playing often exceeded that of professional orchestras.
After the opening Sibelius symphony the young Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä delivered a most convincing performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. She played with the same lucidity and tonal contrast heard in the recent recording of another Finn, Pekka Kuusisto, also accompanied by Segerstam with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Although Vähälä used more judiciously chosen rubato than Kuusisto, she received the same idiomatic and sympathetic accompaniment from Segerstam and the LSSO. Of particular note were the assured pacing and gradation of climaxes in the opening Allegro moderato. Soloist and conductor were always in dialogue with each other with sombre pacing and eloquent phrasing in the stoical Adagio di Molto and in projecting the exuberant (if sometimes laconic) wit of the final Allegro ma non tanto.
After the conductorless Segerstam symphony première, Segerstam the conductor ended the concert with a rousing performance of Finlandia - a suitably jubilant coda to an outstanding concert. A real occasion!
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