No sooner do I get home from a week away that I head out for an evening again, the SFS in a mostly-Sibelius program. I regret I was still too tired from the trip to take this in completely, and the brief opening piece, Nautilus by Anna Meredith, went right by me. But I knew the Sibelius pieces and they connected.
With Joshua Bell as soloist, the Violin Concerto turned entirely to butter. Tasty, smooth butter, but butter nonetheless. Bell's actually rather elaborate solo style dominated the proceedings, but the orchestra under guest conductor Dalia Stasevska melted in kind. Quiet, uneventful, unaggressive, a kindly background for the fancy but undemonstrative solo work.
This wasn't the Stasevska who came back after intermission for the Second Symphony. Especially in the finale, here we heard SFS in its full amazing blazing glory, winds and brass shining to the stars, the way MTT would do it. Not unimportantly, the flow was coherent, with each surge meaning something and not repetitious.
But the general buildup of the piece was much more unusual. Stasevska kept pulling back on the volume and intensity, rendering quiet passages so as to build it up again the more effectively later. It jumped back and forth this way. If it had concentrated just on the finale, I could read it as a way of diluting the threatening pomposity - which was most effectively diluted. But the whole symphony was like that, and the placement of the pull backs was not obviously to pull back on the buildup; rather the opposite. A most unusual, if effective, treatment.
Stasevska is about the shortest conductor I've ever seen. This wouldn't be relevant except that conductors are supposed to be tall in order to be masterful. Well, here's proof that a short woman can be just as masterful as any tall male.