One-composer programs can be a problem, particularly when the composer is as insistently somber and relentlessly personal as Jean Sibelius.
But the assortment of three major Sibelius compositions played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Thursday, under the direction of Paavo Berglund, met with cordial popular approval; the audience listened intently, the conducting was impressive, the playing was earnest and the occasion introduced a 26-year-old violinist who seems headed for big rewards.
Joseph Swensen, New York-born of Norwegian-Japanese descent, is a handsome young man who plays fiddle by the grace of God and superior training (Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard). He is musically sensitive and alert beyond his years, and he communicates directly and intensely. His tone is unforced velvet, his technique fluently flawless. On Thursday, he plumbed the subtleties of Sibelius' Concerto with limitless poise and persuasive eloquence.
The audience embraced him with floods of applause. Not for quite a time have the orchestra musicians been seen to welcome a newcomer so heartily.