Updated: Friday, November 3, 2017 – 10:20 AM
By Laura Coleman
Rarely has a guest conductor exerted such exquisite control over the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Susanna Mälkki did when she took the helm of the powerful orchestra this past weekend.
Starting Friday evening, Mälkki began her stint as the orchestra’s new principal guest conductor for the 2017/18 season with a dynamic program that topped off with Hector Berlioz’s legendary Symphonie Fantastique. When she finished conducting her third program on Sunday afternoon, virtually the entire audience stood up to greet her triumphant debut with rousing approval.
That Mälkki is a woman conductor is indeed a rarity. That she is clearly so talented, however, is perhaps even rarer.
From Berlioz’s “Queen Mab” scherzo from Romeo et Juliet to Luca Francesconi’s U.S. premiere of Duende – The Dark Notes to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique every movement was rendered with subtle beauty and sublime power.
In a certain sense Mälkki’s style is distinctly reminiscent of the two conductors the L.A. Phil knows best: Gustavo Dudamel and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Like Dudamel, she elicited a particular crispness from the orchestra while, like Salonen, she managed to evoke a complex pathos. Yet, there is something in her style that is distinctly unique.
A much sought-after artist on the international conducting circuit for her versatility and broad repertoire, she currently serves as the chief director of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in her native Finland.
So what more can we expect from Mälkki this season? Over the next few months she will lead the orchestra through eight more concerts, with programs that include Gustav Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 6, Claude Debussy’s La Mer and Olivier Messiaen’s unconventional 10-movement Turangalîla Symphony.
For more information on this season, visit: https://www.laphil.com/.