Chicago Symphony Orchestra

“Mäkelä’s tautly focused direction, alert cueing and meticulous balancing drew a riveting performance of kaleidoscopic brilliance and whipcrack energy that made the strongest possible case for Hillborg’s music.”

“The major work on the program was another, much more familiar showpiece, Stravinsky’s The Firebird … Here too, Mäkelä was completely on top of Stravinsky’s fantastical score. The conductor led an alert, detailed performance yet one that went with a strong, pulsing current of forward momentum. Kastchei’s “Infernal Dance” was duly thrilling and spectacular in its amplitude and sheer sonic impact, and the finale rose to a coda of glowing beneficence. Yet the more subtle sections were just as striking, such as the graceful music for the Firebird and the enchanted princesses. More than anything else, this was an organic performance, each scene flowing seamlessly into the next with a sense of an unfolding compelling narrative.” 

Chicago Classical Review, Lawrence A. Johnson, 15 April 2022

“What the young Finnish maestro conjured in “The Firebird” ranks with the finest performances I’ve ever heard from the Chicago Symphony, and that covers many a year. The insight, finesse and not least patience that Mäkelä evinced brought to mind Bernard Haitink and his mastery of turning understatement to electrifying effect. I’m not referring to big, obvious gestures like the infernal dance of Kashchei, which the CSO would turn into an astonishing conflagration under almost any baton. I’m talking about the many quiet places: the evocation of the magic garden at the beginning, the ballet’s pervasive aura of enchantment and certainly the berceuse, a serene and shimmering lullaby by which the Firebird subdues the evil magician. These became magic moments indeed as Mäkelä spun gentle lines from the woodwinds and drew sparkling, soft textures from the violins.”

Chicago on the Aisle, Lawrence B. Johnson, 21 April 2022

Anders Hillborg: Eleven Gates
Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird
Soloist: Daniel Lozakovich