Review: Lahti Symphony Orchestra, at Symphony Hall

Okko Kamu, well known to Birmingham audiences for his performances with the CBSO, brought his new orchestra, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, from Finland for this all-Sibelius concert.

After a finely paced and lovingly detailed account of the ‘Karelia Suite’ the orchestra was joined by the Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä for Sibelius’ Violin Concerto.

She has the superlative technique needed for this most demanding of concertos, allied to a great musicality. The withdrawn darkness at the very start quickly opened out thrillingly to reveal her total command and tautness of control.

The slow movement gathered intensity, full of nobility and warmth, while the finale had the utmost virtuosity and style.

In ‘The Swan of Tuonela’, dedicated to the memory of the distinguished Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund, who died last week, Sibelius’s Swan was broodingly represented by Jukka Hirvikangas’s dark and sorrowful cor anglais solo in a powerful and haunted performance.

Kamu’s account of the Symphony no. 5 had clarity, precision and directness. His expansive view of the opening meant we could hear much detail, and string sequences were full of weight.

The bassoon lament was beautifully played and the whole movement had a sense of inexorable forward momentum that carried all before it. In the finale the gradual rise to the final climax - the apotheosis of the “Swan Hymn” was superbly judged, the exultation struggled for, but at the same time spontaneous and unforced.

No marks for the importunate fathead in the audience whose overenthusiastic reactions crashed into the end of the concerto and even worse, the symphony.

The final staccato chords had barely ceased before his wild cries dragged us away from the elemental power of the finale.

More restraint please. It’s not just the secret of comedy that lies in timing!