There is a reason Carnegie Hall is one of the great artistic destinations of the world. Even though I considered myself very fortunate to have tickets for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra last night, I could never have expected to enjoy myself quite as much as I did. Anticipating musical mastery was not out of line with the environment, but I was thinking formal, reverent, even stiff music. There was much more. There was the greatness of the orchestra of course, there was an astounding soprano, there was the extremely gifted violinist, and there was the happiest conductor I’ve ever seen.
The program was a mixture of contemporary and traditional compositions, with Swedish songs and German inspiration, but it was the emotional quality of the performance that made it so great. In the first place, the orchestra radiated a sense of wonderment at being in Carnegie Hall. When they took their positions they looked out into the audience as though to say – wow, we really are here at Carnegie Hall! Who could not but wonder at the gilt grandeur of the hall, with the tiers of people overflowing from the packed balconies. The special location, the special event, the very special opportunity . For me this launched the mood of the evening.
The soprano, Elin Rombo, was Swedish, and could have walked straight from Fashion Week hosted up the road at the Lincoln Center. She wore a fabulous green dress, her manner was elegant, and her voice transposed you to the joy and tragedy she sang of.
The orchestra reassembled for the performance of Ray Chen the Taiwan born, Australian raised violinist. He was young and relaxed, and stood at the front of the stage with an eye to the conductor, but with all his energy channeling through the music, a Max Brunch Concerto. His violin was a 1702 Stradivarius and he played it as though it was a living being, as though the strings were my very own heart strings. It was an extraordinarily emotional performance, fervent and alive – no wonder he is introduced as one of the most compelling young violinists today.
At the heart of the whole evening was the conductor, the Finnish born Sakari Oramo. If we were all rather pleased to be there in the atmosphere of Carnegie hall enjoying magnificent music, he was the one who expressed the best. He beamed throughout the entire performance. His eyebrows seemed to give as much direction to the oboes and the violins as did his baton, rising and falling to garner tender responses from the players. He was a Pied Piper purposefully dancing in shiny black patent shoes. As Mr Oramo gestured through the air even silence had it’s own key, although just at that moment when you thought it was over, a perfect vibration from a gentle bow would bring life back to the stage. Magnificent. It was a joy just to see the pleasure of music in his being, and then at the end flopping like a rag doll at the podium, bowing with a perfect mix of humility and melodrama.