BSO joined by conductor Hannu Lintu, pianist Stephen Hough in rich program
On that occasion, Lintu led the ensemble in the most famous piece of classical music from his homeland, Sibelius’ “Finlandia.” For his return this week, the conductor is offering the second most famous — Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.
From the first measures of that symphony Thursday night at the Music Center at Strathmore, Lintu signaled that his would be a brisk and bracing account.
Some conductors, at least non-Finn ones, take heaps of time to let this earth-colored, yearning-filled music sink in (think Leonard Bernstein). They may be off-base, but they can't help but conjure up dark forests and, of course, the forbidding peaks of mighty fiords.
Lintu let the sun seep continually into the score. There was a fresh breeze, too, behind his scherzo-like tempo for the first movement, not to mention his whirlwind pace for the actual scherzo later on.
The conductor hardly stinted on the symphony’s intense drama, though. The unsettled and unsettling second movement, for example, emerged with particularly effective tension.
Lintu kept the finale moving along. He still gave the grand, anthem-like theme its expressive due, even if, like Veda in “Mildred Pierce,” the conductor seemed to be saying, “But let’s not get sticky over it.”
Throughout the symphony, he called for telling nuances from the musicians, especially ...
The strings summoned a great deal of tonal warmth; basses and cellos articulated the pizzicato start of the Andante with great sensitivity. That Andante also found the brass producing walls of sound with remarkable gravity and tonal richness.
There were colorful contributions from the woodwinds as well. And Katherine Needleman delivered the third movement oboe solo with her usual sensitivity.
Other strong examples of musical romanticism filled out the program.
Tchaikovsky’s stormy “Francesca da Rimini” received a taut account at the top of the evening, with Lintu stressing momentum and structural cohesion.
A sense of abandon would have been welcome during the final moments, and maybe one more notch of explosive power here and there, but this was still an impressive take on the score, and the orchestra was in superb form. Steven Barta’s clarinet glowed eloquently.
Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the composer’s most inventive creations, provided — at least in this context — a lighter mood. Which is not to say less consequential.
Having the brilliant English pianist Stephen Hough as soloist guaranteed an absorbing performance. His playing was not just precise and pristine, but full of telling detail as he dug into the ingenious thematic metamorphosis that makes the concerto such a gem.
Lintu was a supple collaborator. Other than some questionable intonation at the start, the orchestra was again in fine form. Dariusz Skoraczewski delivered the cello solo tenderly.
The concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Meyerhoff.
PHOTO BY HEIKKI TUULI