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For a long time, Susanna Mälkki was regarded primarily as a specialist in New music. But this restrictive label no longer does justice to the conductor, who led the Ensemble intercontemporain from 2006 to 2013. As an orchestral cellist, the musician began her career playing the symphonic repertoire from the Classical to the Modern, which she now conducts with the most renowned orchestras. This repertoire is also strongly represented in the playlist compiled by the principal conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra as part of her guest conducting appearance in May 2021.

It begins with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. For Mälkki, this recording is a “monument of its time” both in terms of its cinematic concept and orchestral sound. While the conductor appreciates the “flow and opulence” in Claudio Abbado’s renditions of Mahler, she describes Sir Simon Rattle’s performance of Schoenberg’s “excessive” Gurre-Lieder as “poetic, dazzling and moving”. Chief conductor Kirill Petrenko is of course also included in the selection: He is represented by Scriabin’s “enthralling” Poème de l'extase and the ballet music La Péri in a performance characterised, according to Mälkki, by “elegance, style and flawless virtuosity”. The playlist is completed by performances conducted by Pierre Boulez, founder of the Ensemble intercontemporain, Herbert Blomstedt and Sakari Oramo.

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