The TSO does all of the Sibelius Symphonies, part 3
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Pekka Kuusisto, violin
Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra
Sibelius Festival Chorus

Thursday April 22, 2010 8pm
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto

Sibelius: Two Serenades for Violin and Orchestra
Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82
Sibelius: Symphony No. 6 in D Minor, Op. 104
Sibelius: Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 105

Like with the first two concerts in this series, as I sit to write I feel I have nothing to say. I met up with two friends at the show, and pretty much talked everything out before, at intermission and after the show. Why write when, from my point of view, the experience is over and shared?

Simply put, writing this (and the preceeding Sibelius reviews) has been a painful experience in wriihing, sorry WRITING when I have nothing to say. I will end the pain, for both you dear reader and myself, and present this final review with no polish so it will be done. Enjoy ... with all the typos and poor writing and all the other writing sins it contains.

What to say, what to say?

The soloist, Pekka Kuusisto, was fascinating to hear. The sound he got from the instrument was quieter, maybe a bit rawer, than so many other soloists. His approach was conversational, inviting, nuanced, "chamber music detailled" and intimate in its approach.

And the TSO ... I've found over the last few years that the orchestra always strikes me as sounding best under Oundjian, their principal conductor. However, Thomas Dausgaard is different; the orcehestra sounded as fine as ever with his baton in front, and perhaps better in a certain respects: the quiet passages were far quieter than any playing I recall from the symphony in a long time, and there was at times a, for lack of a precise term, "conversational nature" frequently evident in many passages. The orchestra's sound and performance matched the performance of Kuusisto well. The violin and orchestral works exemplified this feeling; the works generally started quietly, fleetingly ... the initial ideas given out like the opening of a long conversation, almost tentaively but still with confidence, then expanded into more confident discourse.

Kuusisto's sound also had a less (for lack of a precise word) "look at me I'm the soloist" character than I often hear, which allowed his lines to merge, emerge and receed into the orchestral texture in an amazing way; fully audible but fully integrated with the ensemble.

But the star of this show, and the two preceeding shows, was not a conductor, violin soloist, or any other performer ... it was the composer. A series such as the TSO's presentation of the entirety of Sibelius's symphonic output, should serve to focus the listener on the composer as star. It did for me at least.

The 5th, 6th and 7th Symphonies in a way backed away from the oddness of the 4th, which Sibelius appears to have considered his response to the avante-garde of his time. Personally, I felt the 4th to be the most interesting of the symphonies, although to be contrarian I won't say I liked it the most. In the 5th, 6th and 7th it's like Sibelius had moved back to a development that he'd followed through his first 3 symphonies; the statsis of the 4th had an impact on his last 3 symphonies, but they were less forbidding and more approachable than the 4th. Sibelius indicated he had trouble writing the 5th, and as I recall it went through many modifications before Sibelius considered it done. It seems to me, dispite accusations that Sibelius backpedalled after the 4th Symphony, that the 5th and subsequent symphonies actually indicated that Sibelius was more interested in his own style and had managed to take what he needed from the "avante garde" and had to take time and effort to integrate it into his own style. Dausgaard announced at the beginning of the the evening that in a way the 5th, 6th and 7th could be taken as one massive uber symphony; I don't fully agree, but they are definitely a set, and are all convincing and articulate works of both craft and art.

It's a shame Sibelius fell silent as a composer for the last many years of his life. Or maybe not ... if he withheld his works because he felt they were not worth releasing, perhaps he spared us the experience of listening to people praise works anyone with brains and ears knew were substandard, but no-one would call out due to Sibelius's reputation. Frankly, there are many works and composers who I think fall into this category; sometimes I'm pretty open on my views vis a vis this category of composers, but not now as I'm rambling ...

I'm glad the TSO gave me this chance to revisit Sibelius.

And with that ...

The end. Whew!

End of PART 3. End ALL.
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