ASO: Stephen Mulligan with Nikolai Lungansky

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s concert for the evening was conducted by Assistant Conductor Stephen Mulligan. The program opened with Sibelius’ Symphony no. 1. According to the notes, Mulligan traveled to Finland to study Sibelius’ music and I think it showed in his conducting: he clearly understood the piece and it came across as robust and fully realized under his baton. I do wish that I’d been able to hear his expertise expressed on a different of Sibelius’ pieces, though. Sibelius’ work always makes me think that there’s a certain intentionality to his composition; that every note is carefully considered and every chord formed with a purpose in mind. Often this is what I like most about his works: a sensation that every minor thing in a piece that touches me was an intentional act by the composer to reach me. The first symphony, though, seems a bit over-thought to me. I always feel like there should be more to it for all of the thought that the composer put into it. That’s not to say it’s bad so much as it always leaves me wanting to listen to something else of his instead.

The concerto for the evening came after the intermission. It was Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 3 with Nikolai Lungansky soloing. Lungansky had a certain casual musicality to his playing that was very pleasing. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if he’d played all of the notes, though, and was a little more consistent with the ones that he did play. At times he seemed to have a weak right pinky finger. The program notes stated that he has an album of Debussy’s works and I can imagine him playing those impressionist pieces well. Mulligan did a decent job balancing the orchestra and the soloist so that everything was clear and coherent. Even a passable performance of Rachmaninov’s third is generally exciting.

Leave a Reply