EIF 2016: Minnesota Orchestra, Usher Hall, Review
Without a doubt the star of the concert was violin soloist, Pekka Kuusisto. I have never seen a soloist so relaxed and in command of his performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. His smile and some interaction with players in the orchestra were fascinating. A lady behind me whispered to her companion 'Isn't he sexy'. When the applause had died down he spoke to us, in part telling us it was famine in Finland in the mid nineteenth century which caused immigration, once the American civil war was over, to America's Midwest. When I arrived to live and work in Minneapolis in 1968 I immediately realised this was a Nordic city through and through.
Pekka Kuusisto was born in Finland and so too the Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä and so too, of course, Sibelius. The concert began with Sibelius' tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter, so named after the the character in the Kalevala, the 19th century Finnish national epic.
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was brisk, exuberant and thoroughly enjoyable. The applause caused not one but two encores. When the Minnesota Orchestra was last at the Festival - in 2010 - I remember their performance of Beethoven's Seventh. In-between those years the Orchestra had to trim its financial sails. The players were not happy to have their pay reduced and more than eighteen months of lockout, no pay and no work. Thank goodness that is behind them; this concert has shown they are back on top form.
Performance: Tuesday 23rd August 2016 at 20:00