Conductor Susanna Mälkki’s appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in recent years have received considerable kudos from critics and audiences alike ... The orchestra under Mälkki’s firm hand was in top form, even with many principals taking the night off."
Conductor Susanna Mälkki’s appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in recent years have received considerable kudos from critics and audiences alike … The orchestra under Mälkki’s firm hand was in top form, even with many principals taking the night off.
Mälkki and Repin were a good musical match, their relatively straightforward viewpoints making for a nearly seamless partnership. Both are known for stripping decades of accumulated performance traditions from standard repertoire and looking at scores with fresh eyes …
Mälkki seemed comfortably in her element with the music of her compatriot, and no doubt her reading of Sibelius’s Second Symphony tonight will confirm her bona fides.
It is unreasonable and perhaps unwise to expect anything novel in a reading of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, but Mälkki’s take on the warhorse was consistently fresh and occasionally illuminating. Her tempos were on the fleet side of standard practice, but never ostentatiously so.
The first movement was the most conventional of the four, with only the slightest deviations of the primary tempo allowed for structural clarity. The second movement funeral march inspired more flexibility from her baton, as each new variation was announced with pullbacks that were smartly assorted based on relative harmonic tension and shifts in orchestration.
The scherzo was allowed to take flight of its own accord, and the CSO’s horn trio responded with rustic, full throated abandon. Most impressive was her account of the finale, a reading brimming with characterful contrast. Again tempos were on the quick side, but Beethoven’s startling mood swings were given a full, expansive platform. The wind principals were splendid throughout, most notably Keith Buncke (bassoon), John Bruce Yeh (clarinet), and Michael Henoch (oboe).