The program opened with Tapiola, Sibelius' symphonic poem and his last major work. Tapio is the Finnish god of the forests and Sibelius' score is prefaced with these lines:

Wide-spread they stand, the Northland's dusky forests,
Ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams,
Within them dwells the Forest's mighty God,
And wood-sprites in the gloom weave magic secrets.

This piece certainly did justice to these words, and Sibelius created an atmosphere in his music that was dark and haunting, yet beautiful, and of course the BBC Symphony Orchestra executed this perfectly. Initially this piece was criticised for its simplicity, but it is in this simplicity that its beauty lies.

Music for Violin and Orchesta, Op. 33 by German Detlev Glanert was a UK premiere from a composer that I had never heard of, so I was unsure what to expect. The soloist, Stephan Bryant gave a sensitive yet powerful performance of this work, with his virtuousity being particularly apparent in the upper register. It was inspired by Rilke's Sonnetsto Orpheus, and is appropriately song-like in its expression. Although dissonant with unrooted tonality, I was pleasantly surprised to thoroughly enjoy it, despite the fact dissonance is usually not my forte!

Sibelius's 5th Symphony is one my favourite pieces of all time. Prior to the concert, I read a comment from a review following David Robertson's 2009 performance of this work at the Carnegie Hall, where the critic described his conducting to have made it "the most transparent and riverting account of Sibelius' elusive Fifth Symphony in memory." This made me eagerly anticipate this performance even more! I wondered how Robertson's rendition could differ that dramatically from the piece as I already knew it. Robertson is a dynamic and passionate conductor, who drew out the best from this already excellent orchestra.

Robertson's interpretation with its variations in tempo and dynamic range served to remind me that music on a page is not static, and although one can know a piece very well from one recording, seeing and hearing it performed live with a different conductor and orchestra is a dramatically different experience. With a piece as dramatic as this, and particularly the third movement needs to be heard live to experience the full impact, especially in the way that Sibelius uses the brass section.

When I first heard this symphony a few years ago, I was immediately captured, especially by the third movement, nicknamed by Sibelius as the Swan Hymn. The haunting lyricism and tension of the first two movements is resolved in this triumpant, evocative and life-affirming finale. The final and main theme of this movement is one that cannot fail to inspire. It is so powerful and uplifting that whenever I hear it, but especially at this concert, I wish that I was a brass player!