Music of Sibelius and Saariaho. Susanna Mälkki/Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Washington Performing Arts.
The most distinguished touring ensemble to come to town this year was the Helsinki Philharmonic, under the baton of Susanna Mälkki, at the end of her remarkable tenure as music director that concluded with the 2022-2023 season. A worthy all-Finnish program opened with L’Aile du Songe, a striking flute concerto by Kaija Saariaho, rendered by soloist Claire Chase with shamanic voiced hums, spoken words, overbreaths, and overtones. Mälkki also led an explosive performance of Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen’s Return, followed by a superlative interpretation of the composer’s Second Symphony. Before launching into an encore of Finlandia, Mälkki noted, “We are obviously in a patriotic mood,” referring to Finland joining NATO the previous month.