Lintu Brings Bracing Energy
July 30, 2010
A program that began with adapted Tchaikovsky ended with authentic Tchaikovsky, his tone poem "Capriccio italien." If nothing else, Lintu proved there's life in this pops potboiler yet.
Once upon a time it was Germany that produced the most talented conductors. Now, it is Finland. Wednesday night's Grant Park Music Festival concert brought the return of Hannu Lintu, a dynamic Finnish conductor who's making a name for himself around the world, and for good reason.
The 42-year-old maestro is immensely assured on the podium and he knows how to put his mark on an orchestra, even on limited rehearsal, as was the case here.
The week's Grant Park Orchestra concerts (the program will be repeated Friday) mark Lintu's fourth appearance on the series since his Chicago debut at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in 2004; the musical results were strong enough to warrant a return invitation.
The tall, lanky maestro struck sparks with the orchestra players, and they responded to his clear beat and sweeping, energized gestures with some fine playing, the odd horn bobble notwithstanding.
Whenever the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has ventured Stravinsky's "Le Baiser de la Fee" ("The Fairy's Kiss") ballet, it almost always has been in the form of the divertimento the composer extracted from the full score.
But Lintu ventured the complete work, a first for Grant Park. This version adds about 20 minutes of connective tissue to Stravinsky's nostalgic homage to his great forebear, Tchaikovsky, including a setting of the song "None but the Lonely Heart," the only Tchaikovsky quote most listeners are likely to recognize.
Alas, much of the quieter, more subtly atmospheric music was lost to the ambient noise of Millennium Park.
And that's too bad, for Lintu searched out the coloristic variety of the scoring while honing the balletic rhythms to a fine degree of precision.
The playing sounded secure despite the score's unfamiliarity, and there were fine flute, violin, clarinet, horn and oboe solos. One could only imagine how much better it all would have sounded indoors. No such problem with Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2, played with honest musical excitement by German pianist Markus Groh, a Liszt specialist making what apparently was his Chicago debut.
Showmanship is built into this staple of the Romantic repertory, but bravura is only one element that drives Liszt's ingeniously constructed concerto. Groh was fully in command of everything, the lyrical poetry depth as well as the razzle-dazzle. He summoned plenty of effortless power for the big chordal volleys and flying octaves but he also caressed the lyrical line in duet with principal cellist Walter Haman.
Lintu had the orchestra playing very much on the same electric wavelength as the soloist. Bravos all around.
A program that began with adapted Tchaikovsky ended with authentic Tchaikovsky, his tone poem "Capriccio italien." If nothing else, Lintu proved there's life in this pops potboiler yet. It's a natural for outdoor listening, and when treated not with condescension but belief it can, and did, make a colorful and rousing effect.
Jon von Rhein, Chicago Tribune