Briger is a wonderfully full-bodied conductor, scooping up the orchestral forces at his command in a bear hug of expressive physicality. This dynamism was reflected back across the concert platform, every muscle, tendon, sinew and synapsis of the assembled musicians spurred into action by their shared purpose. Such nimble responses proved ideal for a program rich in narrative complexity.
Following a light and airy overture – Nigel Westlake’s Flying Dreams – the Slavic melodrama of Janacek’s Taras Bulba conjured a Cossack adventure replete with epic excitement.
Briger (much like his uncle, the late Sir Charles Mackerras) is a Janacek expert and revealed a keen understanding of how to draw together this music’s idiosyncrasies: its combination of literal sound painting and romantic allusion, its yen for extreme sonorities balanced with rhapsodic beauty.
The same detailed storytelling was applied to the Finnish vistas of Sibelius’ second symphony.
From the melancholy foothills of the opening’s major-minor uncertainty, to the summit of the final movement’s yearning grandeur, this was a performance of monumental vision.