Sibelius is an important composer, though you wouldn’t guess it from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s programming through the years. The violin concerto is played now and then — you can’t simply ignore it; it is, after all, the single greatest work of its kind — but the symphonies, when played, are pretty much limited to the uncharacteristic Nos. 1 and 2 rather than the more significant later works.
So this week’s concerts by the DSO are a welcome shift in gears. Not only the violin concerto, but the great Symphony No. 5 is on the program, and as a bonus there is a fine work by the most prominent living Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, whose music is virtually nonexistent in Dallas (maybe the marketing people are afraid that his name will frighten the audience).
The best part of Thursday night’s all-Finnish concert in the Meyerson Symphony Center was the violin concerto, which introduced a highly impressive young American violinist, Caroline Goulding. She projected a beautiful tone with heartening accuracy and created a real sense of drama. Hers was a major performance.
There were some ensemble disagreements, but the playing of the DSO under Pietari Inkinen’s direction was admirable in both the many superb solos and in overall dramatic thrust.
Rautavaara’s Manhattan Trilogy was another winner. As the title states, it is in three parts: “Daydreams,” “Nightmares” and “Dawn.” “Daydreams” is a haunting musical statement, “Nightmares” is agitated and rather abrasive, and “Dawn” seems more brooding than the title would indicate. Rautavaara received part of his musical training in Manhattan, so he knows whereof he composes. His New York is definitely not the New York of Gershwin and Bernstein.
The DSO, again with many fine solos, gave an atmospheric performance.
The opening of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 was a little ragged and ensemble wasn’t always spot-on, but there was some great solo work and Inkinen, a young Finn, made the most of the grand moments in the score, particularly in the final movement.
Now maybe it’s time for some other of the late symphonies — and how about the tone poems?
The program will be repeated tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.