Programme Guide

In Esa-Pekka Salonen’s brilliant orchestral piece Helix, the title says it all. The spreading cascades of sound can be described, in the words of the composer, “as a spiral or coil”: the piece begins slowly at the broad end of the cone and is subjected to a continuous process of acceleration towards the tip. As the tempo increases, the note values of the phrases are lengthened to convey the sense of pressure that builds as the music seems to be pushed through an ever-smaller space – like cream being forced through a piping bag.

As a professed ambassador of the music of his Finnish homeland, Santtu-Matias Rouvali has programmed Esa-Pekka Salonen’s sinuous piece. Víkingur Ólafsson then takes his place at the piano, the Icelandic star having chosen John Adams’s fast-paced Piano Concerto for his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker – a technically immensely demanding work with the ironic title Must the devil have all the good tunes? The movement titles “Gritty, Funky, But in strict Tempo; Twitchy, Bot-Like” and “Più mosso: Obsession/Swing” reveal much about the infectious music, in which the solo piano takes centre stage throughout.

The main symphonic work of the evening is Sergei Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, in which the composer brilliantly succeeds in combining advanced musical techniques with formal clarity and melodic simplicity.

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