When a composer makes his Philadelphia debut 140 years after his death, you have to ask, Why?
Berwald's "Sinfonie singuliere" didn't quite live up to the originality promised by its subtitle. But the Swedish composer gave you a new appreciation for what followed — Sibelius' Symphony No. 7 Op. 105 and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto played by Lisa Batiashvili — thanks to what the symphony was and was not.
The single-movement, 20-minute Sibelius symphony suggests matters well beyond music, like massive landscapes and tectonic plates.
Sibelius might've called it "devilishly clever" — his words for his Symphony No. 8 that he never finished, perhaps because the 7th, his last, couldn't be topped.
As for Tchaikovsky, one never outgrows his emotion-steeped melodies, especially as played by Batiashvili, whose freshness came from organizing the phrases in ways that made sense to her own ears — and thus to ours.
She played it as if it were the most important piece in the world, in contrast to Christian Tetzlaff in past seasons, who was more like an intelligent interloper.