Mälkki, who is a former music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, very much has her finger on the European pulse and is a compelling advocate of uncompromising modernism.
“The baton was passed to Mälkki for the performance of Wennäkoski’s Hele. The word, the composer explained, has various meanings. It is the Finnish term for a grace note, that musical ornamentation that adds a touch of sparkle or twinkle to a phrase. Appropriately, it closely resembles the Finnish word for “bright” or “light.”
The piece embodied all of that in a sort of dawn-to-sunset study in tonal brightness and vivid birdsong colorations played on a flock of toy bird whistles. The 12-member ensemble (with an all-important percussion array played by Wesley Sumpter) created effects that brought to mind the coming of dawn in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, and the mood music in the Tiki Room at Disneyland.
It was in the two last pieces: Overheating by Srnka, and Übergang II by Robin that the post-Boulez, influence was strongly felt. Both pieces were dominated by dense tonal structures, strings of notes that slurred and drooped, muted brass exclamations, and overlaid sonorities. Mälkki (a former music director of the Ensemble intercontemporain) conducted them both with deft precision.”