Replacing a gray Russian conductor with a 22-year-old Finn: a master stunt

Replacing a gray Russian conductor with a 22-year-old Finn: a master stunt
Replacing a gray Russian conductor with a 22-year-old Finn: a master stunt

Every now and then you hear a concert in the first half of the year that you know for sure that it will be in your top 3 most beautiful concerts at the end of the year. Perhaps the top 2. With a chance at the top 1. There was such a concert on Thursday evening.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra had a problem: the Russian conductor Valery Gergjev. He would conduct the last concert with artist-in-residence pianist Yuja Wang, until he painfully fell off his pedestal by not speaking out against Putin. Instead of looking for a seasoned (but duller) replacement, the Rotterdams opted for something radical: a 22-year-old Finn, Tarmo Peltokoski.

We can be brief about Yuja Wang. Her color range is enormous: she is as easily melancholy as she is fiery, sensitive, elegant, patient, soft and always extremely tasteful. Rachmaninoffs First Piano Concerto is a treat, and even in the fastest (perfect) runs of his dog-difficult Paganini Rhapsody Wang continues to distinguish main notes from secondary notes, as if she might as well do that right away, because she happens to be there now.

More important is how remarkably oiled the Rotterdam Philharmonic sounded. Peltokoski still makes a mixed impression on Rachmaninov’s trestle: one moment he seems to have a clear idea and can take an instrument group with him in the blink of an eye, the next he swings behind the facts, and is even startled by a faster than expected input by Wang, extra clear because his clear strike is unmistakable (the orchestra could not have distanced itself from Gergjev). But something must have gone right at the rehearsals; something inspires the orchestra to a youthful agility that allows the sound to change from nice and firm to beautifully soft in a beat. Beautiful flowing lines and dancing asides.

Read also the review of Yuja Wang’s concert in October

But then, in the Second Symphony of Sibelius, nothing short of a miracle happens. How Peltokoski manages it is a mystery, because at the beginning the fists he makes seem youthful overconfident. Not every nuance that he indicates with his very serious look is heard from the orchestra. But Sibelius probably already sounded from a transistor when Peltokoski was born: he conducts by heart and knows the music down to his toes. The miracle happens when the motor of the characteristic repetition of 12 ascending and descending notes is switched on in the fourth movement. Slowly a zest for life grows so great that the orchestra starts to shudder. Once more the orchestra collapses to its knees, to fly up as one with a broad arm gesture from Peltokoski, to burst open, drunk with lyricism. Disconcerting, breathtaking, tear-jerkingly beautiful. Even writing about it brings back goosebumps. Tarmo Peltokoski. Write that name down.

In March there will be another young conductor for Rotterdam: 28-year-old Timur Zangiev.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Replacing gray Russian conductor #22yearold Finn master stunt

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