Sakari Oramo has already conducted music by his fellow countryman Jean Sibelius with the Berliner Philharmoniker several times since his debut in 2001. In this concert, we hear the composer’s Second Symphony, which, along with the Violin Concerto written a few years later, is one of his most popular works. To mark his guest appearance with the Philharmoniker in October 2018, Oramo said in an interview for the Digital Concert Hall that Sibelius “reinvented the symphonic form in each of his symphonies”. Through a tight web of motivic correlations, the work is a compelling masterpiece, fascinating for its atmospheric intensity and idiosyncratic formal logic. The symphony begins in a restrained, lyrical manner and ends, after a thrillingly staged transition from the third movement to the finale, with triumphant, radiant sounds. Because of its optimistic spirit, the D major Symphony was one of the favourite works of the Finnish independence movement.
The contemporary piece on the programme is the Piano Concerto by Unsuk Chin, whose solo concertos for violin and cello have already been performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker. “I wanted to emphasise particularly the vitality, kinetic and virtuoso aspects – in short, the playful side – of the piano,” the composer said of her work, written in 1996 and 1997. The soloist is the young pianist Sunwook Kim, who has also recorded Unsuk Chin’s concerto and is making his debut with the Philharmoniker in this concert.