Sibelius and Valero-Terribas: two titans in Malaga’s Philharmonic

The Edgar Neville Auditorium in Malaga closed, facing Málaga’s sea, the Program No. 6 of the 10th Cycle of “La Filarmónica frente al mar” with works by J. Sibelius and R. Strauss. The baton -full of musicality, strength and honesty- of Francisco Valero-Terribas, was in charge of the conducting.

There are many aspects to highlight in this musical event that left the audience in the auditorium touched by so much strenght and contained emotion, both in the magnetic Sibelius scores and in Valero-Terribas baton full of contrasts, expressiveness and musicality: the connection with the audience was immediate. Indeed the delicacy and, in turn, the compositional strength of Sibelius was technically codified by a dedicated and resolute Valero-Terribas. Thus, a select program could be heard that combined the tradition and patriotism of The Swan of Tuonela, the orchestral innovation of the Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op.39 by the same composer and the attractive aesthetics of the Concerto for oboe and small orchestra in D major, TrV 292 by Richard Strauss, in which the consolidated and virtuoso oboist Ángel Luís Sánchez from Madrid stood out.

Valero-Terribas used the symphonic poem The Swan of Tuonela, op. 22 no. 2 (originally composed in 1893 and completed in 1895) to immerse the audience in the dark Finnish waters of Sibelius. This work belongs to the Lemminkäinen suite and is based on the epic poem Kalevala from Finnish mythology, where the sound of the original english horn brought to life the sacred swan swimming in the cold, dark and funereal waters around Tuonela, the island of the dead. Considering that Sibelius reached his musical maturity around 1890, it is not surprising that he became deeply interested in the legends and folklore of his country, thus bringing out his more patriotic, conservative side and applying it to his musical compositions.

In this work we can observe some similarities with Claude Debussy with whom he has important affinities as Harry Halbreich would say (let us remember that also in 1893, C. Debussy finished Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune). The beautiful interpretation of the work allows us to visualize aurally the song of a mysterious and enigmatic swan which, thanks to undefined harmonic modulations, imitatively signals its darkest transformation. A becoming between life and death (contained in the symphonic poem itself) was transferred to an audience who admired a Philharmonic conducted with expressiveness and a seductive communicative capacity.

After the musical recreation of death, the audience was filled with a vital air that went through Ángel Luis Sánchez's oboe in his interpretation of the most chromatic Strauss, which came with the Concerto for oboe and small orchestra in D Major, TrV 292 (Allegro moderato, Andante, Vivace-Allegro). In this part, Terribas’ baton exemplarily moderated the "debate" between the oboist and a Philharmonic full of contrasts and excellent timbre.

Communication, message and expressiveness once again captivated an audience which, thanks to the encore and a plethoric Sánchez, travelled to the musical Venice of A. Marcello (1689- 1747) with the “Adagio” from the Concerto for oboe and strings in D minor.

The second part of the two-part program of this concert was Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39, which shows a more abstract and economical Sibelius who is capable of subtly transforming the same theme to the point of making it unbreakable. Valero-Terribas was able to showcase with ease the composer who brought tradition and modernity into harmony by combining Finnish folklore with innovative aesthetic elements.

From the podium, Valero-Terribas received prolonged applause that confirmed the strength and expressiveness of what is, without doubt, one of the best conductors of his generation.

By Verónica García Prior