Her arms at her side against her glimmering, long black jacket and her blond hair pulled into a ponytail, Susanna Mälkki soaked in several minutes of applause after a thrilling Carnegie Hall debut. She had conducted the New York Philharmonic in a program, perceived as a possible prelude to becoming the first woman music director of an orchestra that started in 1842.
“Of course, it’s always an honor to be mentioned in this kind of context,” she said during an interview the day before the Jan. 6 performance. “It’s really, really fun to be with the orchestra. But the `l’actualité,′ as they say in French: This something that the orchestra will take their time. They will try out a lot of people.”
Musicians beamed as the audience erupted following the Philharmonic’s first Carnegie Hall appearance in six years, broadcast live on radio. Leelanee Sterrett, the acting associate principal horn, detected a “focused energy” that Mälkki brought to the podium and called it “one of those performances where in the concert everything was kind of taken up a notch, dialed up a notch.”
A native of Finland who turns 53 on March 13, Mälkki studied at the Sibelius Academy and London’s Royal Academy of Music, and she was mentored by Esa-Pekka Salonen.