Saturday 3 November 2007

Superb Sibelius/Salonen/LA Phil at the London Barbican

Esa-Pekka Salonen with the Los Angeles Philharmonics: Sibelius 2nd Symphony; Return of Lemminkainen; Salonen´s Wing on Wings. Barbican Centre, November 1st 2008.

Esa-Pekka Salonen is currently touring (some of) Europe with the Los Angeles Philharmonics playing his first ever complete cycle of the Sibelius symphonies including works by additional Finnish composers such as Kaija Saariaho and himself under marketed as Sibelius Unbound.

Salonen´s own superb composition Wing on wing from 2004 is a piece for orchestra and two sopranos plus the loud-speaking voice of architect Frank Gehry of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. for which this piece was written. The sopranos had to literally run between the stage and balcony to make their wordless solos on time in this very accessible piece focusing on rhythm and rich string textures. If had been told this was Stravinsky from the period of Firebird and Sacre, I would have believed them.

Sense of rhythm and energy are some of Esa-Pekka Salonen´s biggest assets as a conductor, and suffice to say that this evening´s Sibelius 2nd symphony as well as Lemminkainen´s Return were absolutely superb. Salonen brings this very special quality to Sibelius music, never just pretty, always with that dark undercurrent just beneath the surface.
And what a seriously superb orchestra the Los Angeles Philharmonics is: Razor-sharp precision in the strings, a stunning brass section and quite obviously very committed.

I assume this Sibelius cycle will be released on CD or DVD at one point, which will then be a clear must-have.

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