Slobodeniouk, Mørk Shine in Northern Light

“Narrative aside, the piece is one of Sibelius’s most popular short works, so it was a surprise to learn that Slobodeniouk is only the fourth conductor to program it with the BSO and the first since Colin Davis in 1980. He might well be the best. His atmospheric interpretation began with a growl and then a deep cello (Blaise Déjardin) answered by an equally deep bass clarinet (David Martins). What followed over the next 13 minutes was controlled chaos, everything clarified but not simplified, with exceptionally thoughtful paragraphing. Sibelius’s characteristic play of winds was colorful and robust; Väinämöinen’s theme had a bit of the boaster in it; the maiden was palpable in the tinkling harp. The development gave a sense of Väinämöinen’s tasks and the maiden’s laughter and then Väinämöinen trying harder before the axe falls. He’s the Kalevala’s most enduring, if not always endearing, character, present right to the end of Poem 50, so the barking of brass that announced the big theme at the beginning of the recapitulation was appropriate, and so was the Straussian lushness Slobodeniouk brought to his outsized regret. Once reality set in, we could perceive the Great Bear constellation (a Kalevala constant) twinkling quietly overhead, and then the cello, even calmer, took us out, as if to say “I told you so.””

The Boston Musical Intelligencer