Last night at Orchestral Hall in Minneapolis, Osmo Vänskä conducted Sibelius's In Memoriam and Fourth Symphony alongside Beethoven's Fifth. The performances were emblematic of Vänskä's style — exceptional care over details of articulation on the one hand, exceptional intensity on the other. The Fifth confirmed what an ongoing series of recordings on the BIS label has suggested — that Vänskä is that very rare conductor who can make Beethoven's symphonies sound absolutely fresh. I first encountered him live back in 1994, when he came to St. Peter's in Manhattan with the Lahti Symphony chamber ensemble; the program included Gubaidulina's Concerto for Bassoon and Low Strings, in which the soloist is asked to let out a blood-curdling scream; Nielsen's Serenata in vano; Martinu's Nonet; and Franz Hasenöhrl's ingenious arrangement of Till Eulenspiegel for violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, and horn. There were about twenty people in the audience. I next saw Vänskä with the Iceland Symphony before a half-full Carnegie Hall in 1996. He returns to Carnegie next week with his increasingly world-class Minnesota players in two programs of Beethoven and Sibelius.
Beethoven was in the hall to check out Sibelius's stuff, although he declined to take a bow after his own piece:
If you look closely you can also see Clownsilly.