LPO / Mäkelä review – long awaited debut sees young Finnish chef combine enthusiasm and sophistication | Classical music
VSconductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and musical director of the Orchester de Paris at just 25 years old, of Finnish origin Klaus Mäkelä has been making waves in Europe lately, although we haven’t heard it in London. His highly anticipated debut with the London Philharmonic was the first of three appearances with the orchestra this season. Strauss, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev are among the composers he will conduct next year. However, he opted for French music for the first time, accompanying Saint-Saëns’ first Cello Concerto with works by Messiaen and Debussy.
His approach to this repertoire mixes excitement with sophistication and meticulous attention to detail in a way that can be surprising. The violent central section of Forgotten Offerings, Messiaen’s first meditation (1930) on the crucifixion, was all the more disturbing in that it was performed with such fierce and terrifying precision, its strength compensating for the contemplative introversion of the outer sections, their dynamic gradations and their tightness of harmonies all wonderfully mastered.
The same qualities were quite apparent in the Debussy. Each change of color and detail in La Mer was recorded with perfect clarity while fitting into the organic progression of the whole: Jeux de Vagues sparkled relentlessly; the final dialogue between the wind and the sea was tense, crossed by a feeling of imminent threat. Prelude to L’Après-midi d’un Faune, on the other hand, was sensual rather than sensual, beautifully sober, the textures all delightful. The LPOs are in very good shape right now, and their play here was impeccable.
Sobriety and clarity, meanwhile, also characterize Saint-Saëns’ concerto, dating from 1872, and a work that aspires to the formal perfections of 18th-century classicism that the composer so admired. Truls Mørk was the soloist, patrician, supremely elegant and avoiding embarrassed effrontery, perhaps a little too much in the finale, where a little more outgoing bravery might not have been lacking. Mäkelä, meanwhile, kept the wonderfully delicate and transparent orchestral textures so that every note of Saint-Saëns’ counterpoint was crystal clear and simply exquisite.