Chicago Tribune

Fri 1 Dec 2017

Finnish conductor Storgards proves the real deal in his CSO podium debut

One of those discoveries, John Storgards, directed the CSO for the first time at Thursday night’s subscription concert at Symphony Center. And a successful debut it was. Indeed, the impressive musical results supported the acclaim that has greeted the 54-year-old Finnish conductor at every step of his rapid podium ascent worldwide.

The interpretation gloried in granitic strength, powerful forward motion, taut phrasing and firm rhythm. Yet Storgards’ keen sense of the ebb and flow of Sibelius’ music gave the lyrical pages their rhetorical sweep. Long-lined continuity and dramatic tension were kept paramount. Tempos were urgent but never felt pushed; sonorities were full but never plush.

I especially liked what Storgards did with the inner movements, the way he worked up those swirling eddies of string sound in the andante over the stern calls of the low brass, which gave way to lyrical repose at the end. The scherzo drove forward with the force of an icy Nordic storm, urged on by powerful timpani strokes. The CSO musicians answered his decisive beat with precise attacks, never more so than the violins’ big unison recitative in the finale. A rousing ovation was his and the orchestra’s reward.

John von Rhein