Every year on Twelfth Night, the Stockholm Concert Hall (Konserthuset) hosts a special concert, followed by a formal dinner and a ball. This beloved tradition concludes the Christmas festivities, and ushers in the New Year at the Konserthus. The event includes complimentary bubbly in the intermission, and an address by the CEO of the organization, Stefan Forsberg, who charms the audience with his customary humour, welcoming everybody at the Concert Hall for the coming year.

Malin Byström © Peter Knutson
Malin Byström
© Peter Knutson
This year, the concert featured a programme of excerpts from ballet and operas by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (Kungliga Filharmonikerna) was led by Mika Eichenholz, a Swedish national who has won the Swedish Conductor Prize in 1989, and has worked with the Salzburg Mozarteum, the Israel Philharmonic and the Hamburg Philharmonic, among other orchestras.

The Kungliga Filharmonikerna gave an excellent performance in a late romantic programme, which is no surprise. The concert began with an upbeat dance from the ballet The Snow Maiden, to which the overture to The Queen of Spades followed, introducing a much more crepuscular and melancholy atmosphere. This set the mood for Lisa's suicide aria from the same opera, sung by renowned Swedish soprano Malin Byström, who also performed the letter scene from Eugene Onegin. She is a lyric soprano, with a beautiful silvery timbre, and an extremely uniform voice, which moves from the lower to the upper register with very little change in emission and colour. This uniformity, which is in itself a very desirable quality, can perhaps make the voice a bit monotonous at times. Her voice may lack a bit of drama, especially in this repertoire, but it is smooth and very lyrical, and Byström uses it skilfully to convey sweet and tender emotions. The feeling I was left with is that I would very much like to hear this singer in a different repertoire, such as Mozart. Overall, her performance was very good and successful.

The highlight of the concert was the Polonaise, again from Onegin. Eichenholz's take was excellent: grand, stately, but never bombastic, always elegant and with an element of lightness. The dynamics were perfect: the main tune is repeated several times, and every time it was a little louder, reaching fortissimo only on the last repeat. It communicated joie de vivre and formal grandeur, at the same time.

The second part of the concert was dedicated to the suite from The Swan Lake. It is very hard to listen to this music without picturing the dancers, in one's head, but the music itself, clearly a crowd-pleaser, is extremely enjoyable.

The Kungliga Filharmonikerna shone bright in Tchaikovsky's music. The brass section, which can always be relied upon to deliver with strength and good taste, deserves mention. They lead the orchestra with authority and supported it with elegance, their sound never too open, even in the fortissimi. Honourable mention for the harpist, Laura Stephenson, who was absolutely lovely in the introduction to the "White Swan" Adagio, and in her accompaniment of the violin solo, admirably played by the concertmaster, Andrej Power. The cello solo of Marie Macleod was equally exquisite and moving.