There were indeed quite a few Forumites in Lahti and we certainly enjoyed it. The programmes - lots of patriotic music as the main focus - have been listed elsewhere on the Forum so I'll not repeat that list here.
Here, then, is a reaction... First of all the orchestra played with MUCH more enthusiasm than last time I heard them (May). Wearing my critical hat: with a couple of new first violinists (incl. leader), the string tone wasn't as blended or well balanced as usual; the flute intonation was in general disappointing; and at the Friday concert I didn't find the YL choir in especially good form, either intonation-wise or ensemble-wise.
The interpretations were pretty good too. Okko can certainly find his way intuitively around a Sibelius score - indeed the only piece to sound a bit approximate, in interpretative terms, was Sandels. Quite an achievement bearing in mind that many of the pieces were new to him. Athénarnes sång was played surprisingly slowly and gently: an attempt to turn this (if you'll forgive me) rather dreadful piece of strophic rabble-rousing into real music.
Highlights were probably the Wood-Nymph (he even made the notorious 'quiet' ending of the JSW score work effectively), Karelia Suite (Alla marcia started sedately but towards the end there was a sudden increase in energy [not tempo!] that was quite spectacular), The Captive Queen (just for once not rushed) and En saga (steady in tempo but hypnotic in effect - with a spectacular bass drum!).
Also - somewhere between outstanding and phenomenal - was the piano recital by Henri Sigfridsson. I'd never heard any pianist even attempt to play the Allegro part of Finlandia in tempo... well, I have now! (one especially hair-raising bar was for me the jaw-dropper of the whole festival.) The Sunday morning theatrical production with songs was OK - well acted but a few of the song performances were technically very fallible.
Add in a good dose of Sibelian socializing with friends old and new and you end up with a rather nice way to mark the transition from a wet and cool summer to a wet and cool autumn.
P.S. to EsaTero: Greetings from Brighton and yes, a few beers were most certainly and enthusiastically consumed, as was the famous pepper steak at the El Toro restaurant
P.P.S. Next year: 5th-8th September, focus on the theatre music.