“[In] such a bold and wide-ranging program... Ms. Mälkki showed once again her greatness as a conductor.”
When a conductor puts together a program that is bold and wide-ranging, including works that are relatively unfamiliar to the audience, and succeeds in making each work stand out clearly and forcefully, that is a sure sign of greatness. Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki returned to Davies Hall this weekend to lead the San Francisco Symphony in just such a bold and wide-ranging program, and Ms. Mälkki showed once again her greatness as a conductor. For my money, Susanna Mälkki ought to be considered the front-runner to succeed Michael Tilson Thomas when he retires in 2010 as the San Francisco Symphony’s Music Director.
In concerts on June 7-9, Susanna Mälkki led the Symphony in one notoriously difficult staple – Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto – and two relatively unfamiliar works – Kaija Saariaho’s Laterna Magica (2008) and Alexander Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy (1907). By the time the Saturday evening concert I attended was over, Susanna Mälkki had even won me over to appreciate Scriabin, whose other symphonic poems tend to drive me up the wall with their mysticism and post-Wagnerian pomposity. However, in Ms. Mälkki’s hands, Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy, the third in this composer’s trilogy of mystical symphonic poems, came off as surprisingly supple and full of unusual orchestral colors. There were moments of bombast, to be sure, but even these tended to be balanced by countervailing moments of sweetness.”