In a live performance from 2007's Verbier Festival in Switzerland, Finnish composer-conductor Salonen leads a scintillating program of his own L.A. Variations with "an absolutely authoritative and spell-binding performance" (La Scena Musicale) of the Fifth Symphony by his great countryman, Jean Sibelius.
"'L.A. Variations' has become a regular fixture in concert halls, and the young talents of the Verbier Festival Orchestra bring an impressive vigor … to its on-a-dime rhythmic vectors and dense chord structures…. At the conclusion of a stratospherically high double-bass solo, Salonen and his principal hazard a smile, and he's seen grinning through the entirety of an especially gnarly contrabassoon solo. Passages of 'L.A. Variations' wouldn't be out of place in a Hitchcock nightmare or getaway scene, but it's thankfully never in danger of sounding like Hollywood-soundtrack pastiche. Fellow Finn Jean Sibelius's Fifth Symphony makes the perfect complement: Both men explore a sonic landscape of blurred edges and giant, cascading washes of sound. The closing measures of the Fifth's 'Finale' can often sound abrupt—arresting, unison chords followed by caverns of silence—but Salonen imbues its off-beat ending with pace and potency. This is required viewing."—Time Out Chicago