Mälkki choreographed this dance with verve and energy. The third movement, a nostalgic though rather gloomy elegy, also kept the voices of the sections lively and independent; hope flourished with them.
“BSO and Mälkki embarked after intermission on Bartok’s 1943 Concerto for Orchestra… BSO showed itself equal to the task, with the bassoons, then oboes and then flutes and trumpets taking the spotlight in turn. What a glorious parade of diversity of life! Mälkki choreographed this dance with verve and energy. The third movement, a nostalgic though rather gloomy elegy, also kept the voices of the sections lively and independent; hope flourished with them.”
“More rewarding was the second half’s Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, during which every player onstage (Mälkki included) appeared to treat their role with the importance and gravitas of a solo, and the music added up to infinitely more than the sum of its many parts.”
“The outstanding Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki has not appeared at Tanglewood since 2009. On Saturday, Aug. 12, leading the BSO in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, with the dynamic Seong-Jin Cho at the keyboard and in Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, she certainly demonstrated leadership and musicianship befitting a potential music director of a major American orchestra. […] With Mälkki as a simpatico partner, Cho elevated the concerto far above its weight. His encore, Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 9 No. 2, was gracefully elegant. The Bartok concerto, a famed Koussevitzky commission in 1943 that ranks as one of the greatest orchestral works of the mid-20th century, has been missing from Tanglewood since 2007. As led by Mälkki with power contrasting with delicacy, this memorable performance found the BSO in fighting trim. She and the players captured the essence of the work’s uncanny use of Eastern European folk tunes within a traditional classical framework.”
“The virtuosic demands of the score – met here with impressive ease – often overshadow the fact that this is an occasional piece, commissioned by Koussevitzky in memory of his late wife, Natalie. The somber, mournful and elegiac tints highlighted in the first three movements suggest that conductor Susanna Mälkki had that aspect in mind first and foremost. Witness the weight and Stygian color she drew from the lower strings in the first and third movements and the contrast between the funereal fugal moments at the beginning and the brighter ones at the end of the concerto, where “life-assertion” rules, as Bartók put it. Bartók’s dig at Shostakovich in the third movement, as he begins to remove the music’s mourning shroud, was good-humored rather than acerbic, with the flatulent tuba eliciting more than a few chuckles from those seated near me. Mälkki’s vigorous presence on the podium made visible what was audible. The concerto’s complex rhythmic structures were sharply defined with those of the Finale driving its cathartic jubilation.”
“Seong-Jin Cho, among our more urbane young pianists, offered some delightfully vivacious Mozart in partnership with the conductor Susanna Mälkki, who amply demonstrated there and in her thrillingly exact Bartók why her star burns ever brighter.”