Clara-Jumi Kang playing the Sibelius concerto
The absolute highlight of my year and a longtime dream come true was when maestro Valery Gergiev invited me to conduct an all Sibelius concert with the Mariinsky Orchestra as part of the celebrations of Jean Sibelius' 150th birthday in December. This was the orchestra I had been wanting to conduct since my student times at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and now I could do my debut with them in such a high profile event, which would be also webcast all around the world. I could also choose the soloist myself, and luckily my first choice was available - Clara-Jumi Kang who made a big impression in last summer's Tchaikovsky competition came to perform the Sibelius violin concerto with me.
Before the dress rehearsal at the Mariinsky Concert Hall
I started my program with the seldom played Karelia Overture (not to be confused with the Karelia Suite, although the Mariinsky music librarian did just that). For the second half I chose Sibelius' Symphony No. 6 which has for a long time been my favorite among his symphonies. The rehearsal time was really at a premium - I have not been under this kind of stress fighting against the clock since my rehearsals with the Cleveland Orchestra when I was their assistant conductor! Nevertheless the concert was a big success and even the hall was sold out. I really loved working with such great players, and luckily I was immediately re-invited for another concert in 2016.
For those who want to take a look at the concert, it is available for viewing on RuTube. I am also giving a short interview (mostly in Russian!) during the intermission.