Debuts, premières and introductions: to find all this in one concert the Dutch music lovers had to be last Saturday in Eindhoven. There, in a very demanding programme, the South Netherlands Philharmonic (philharmonie zuidnederland) introduced Dmitry Liss, who is going to lead the orchestra from 2016. Not already completely unknown after his highly esteemed Shostakovich concerts last season, Liss now debuted officially as upcoming chief. His presentation concert included the world première of Theo Verbey's Lumen ad finem cuniculi and his first ever Mahler Fifth. With one more introduction of the evening, the orchestra presented a new concept of digital programme notes available one day before the concert. Not to postpone the verdict until the end, all the debuts and premières were successful and raised the new expectations for future performances under the baton of a new maestro.

The impressive Lumen ad finem cuniculi by the Dutch composer Theo Verbey experienced a committed, lucid and vivacious première. This energetic, as well as energizing, composition was commissioned by the orchestra to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Dutch coal mines. The title “Light at the end of the tunnel” has therefore a suggestive, even a programme overtone. With this title, Verbey gave his listeners a correlation thread to follow on their way from darkness and desperation to the first radiant sparks of light. After every tunnel turn or a new sverve, the sparks flared up into stronger outbursts until the final meteoric explosion left no doubt possible about the dizzying light shining ad finem cuniculi. The composer’s musical ideas have found their form in an astounding orchestration. All orchestral sections are deserving a special attention, but the composition’s pulsing centrum was formed by two marimbas and two vibraphones. Their fundamental presence made them a real ‘light control panel’ of Theo Verbey’s new work. 

The score of Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony hides enough lights and shades for several orchestral works. They are everywhere: in an opening funeral march, a hopeful chorale theme, the joyful dance melodies, the famous Adagietto (Mahler’s own ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ as a love declaration to his wife, Alma) and the brilliant Rondo-Finale. All these scale of moods and atmospheres were revived by philharmonie zuidnederland in a thoroughly intense, empathic and mature interpretation under the inspiring guidance of its new chief conductor. Like an orchestra engine, Dmitry Liss empowered his players with his energy and vision, and the orchestra responded with an intense alertness, impressive security of lines, warmth of colured palette and attention to the details.

The concert, announced in the seasonal programming as “The future vision and a love letter” proved to be an interesting combination of new and wel-known. Verbey and Mahler, Liss and philharmonie zuidnederland: together they supplied enough hope for future visions and light at the end of every possible tunnel.