Whispers

Friday 18.12.2020 19.00 CANCELLED
Espoo Cultural Centre
Friday 18.12.2020 19.00 Espoo Cultural Centre

CANCELLED

Due to the coronavirus situation, we unfortunately have had to cancel our performance of Beethoven’s grand Missa solemnis.
Instead, Klaus Mäkelä will be conducting a colourful programme to finish off the year, including a vivacious work for strings by Baroque composer H.I. Biber, a song cycle by Alban Berg with Tuuli Takala as soloist and Verdigris by Lotta Wennäkoski, rounded off with Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony.
This programme balances between light and shadow, in the borderlands between classical and modern. At its heart is Sibelius’s wonderful Seventh Symphony,” says Klaus Mäkelä.

THE CONCERT IS CANCELLED.

Artists

Program

Open rehearsal on Thursday 17.12.2020 AT 6:30-8:00 PM, Tapiola Hall

Tickets from 5 €, Lippupiste

Come and see how the orchestra works to prepare the concert. The open final rehearsal of Missa Solemnis begins on Thursday 17th Dec at 6.30 pm and ends at 8 pm. Tickets from 5 €, Lippupiste.

Pre-concert talk (in finnish)

18:15-18.35, Tapiola Hall

Klaus Mäkelä introduces the concert in Tapiola Hall.

Heinrich Ignaz Biber

Battalia á 10

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber was a major influence on violin playing in the Baroque era, much like Paganini was to be in the Romantic era. Biber was one of the most accomplished virtuosos of his day and advanced the technique of violin playing in multiple ways. Born in Bohemia, he created his career from 1670 in the court orchestra of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, finally becoming its director. Apart from music for the violin and other instrumental works, he wrote a considerable volume of sacred vocal music and a couple of operas as well.
Battalia (1673) for strings was evidently written to accompany a pantomime entertainment during the carnival season. It is a piece of descriptive music illustrating a battle, and as such not atypical, but Biber introduced several devices that were quite radical for the time and even presaged some of the means of 20th-century music.
Battalia is a suite of eight movements where abstractly titled movements (‘Sonata’, ‘Presto’, ‘Aria’) alternate with movements that have highly descriptive titles. In the second movement, ‘Die liederliche Gesellschaft von allerley Humor’, he invokes the confusion of a multinational army by superimposing Bohemian, German, Slovakian and Italian folk tunes in a discordant mess. Biber wrote in one of the parts: “There is dissonance everywhere, as drunks are in the habit of bellowing out songs all at once.”
In the fourth movement, ‘Der Mars’, the bass players are instructed to place a sheet of paper between the strings of their instruments to invoke the roll of military drums. The lovely ‘Aria’ might be taken to reflect the prayers of soldiers before the battle. In the battle proper, ‘Die Schlacht’, the basses are requested to be placed apart from each other, their forceful pizzicatos representing musket fire. And although the work was written principally for entertainment in heady carnival celebrations, the final movement is a lament of wounded soldiers where Biber gives voice to the human suffering caused by war.

Text: Kimmo Korhonen

Alban Berg

Sieben frühe Lieder

In autumn 1904, Viennese composer Arnold Schönberg, who had already made something of a name for himself, posted a newspaper announcement advertising private tuition in music theory and composition. One Charley Berg saw the announcement and took some of the songs written by his younger brother Alban, unbeknownst to him, to Schönberg for evaluation. Schönberg recognised a great talent in the 19-year-old Alban, who until then had been completely self-taught in composition, and invited him to become his student. At the same time, Schönberg’s tuition was also sought out by Anton Webern, completing the famous trio later referred to as the Second Viennese School. Under Schönberg’s leadership, they sought a pathway from late Romanticism towards a more modern idiom, initially Expressionism and finally, in the 1920s, to a technical approach known as dodecaphony or twelve-tone technique.
Berg made his public début as a composer in Vienna in November 1907 with a performance of three of his solo songs at a concert of Schönberg’s students. These three – Liebesode, Die Nachtigall and Traumgekrönt – were also included in the set of seven songs that Berg decided to publish, lightly edited, in 1928. By that time, he was already an accomplished master. These songs all dated from his student days in 1905–1908 and represent only a small sample of the more than 80 songs he wrote early in his career.
Sieben frühe Lieder interestingly represents a turning point in Berg’s artistic development. While they are stylistically still firmly rooted in late Romanticism, there are elements of modernist expression in them. The most traditional ones are the Schumannesque Die Nachtigall and the simple idyll Im Zimmer, while the most exciting moments are in the opening song Nacht, which acquires an Impressionist feel from the use of the whole-tone scale. A nocturnal mood is also found in the wistful Schilflied and in the burning love of Liebesode. The love theme that runs through all the songs takes on a particularly personal flavour in Traumgekrönt, inspired by Berg’s infatuation with his future wife Helene. Yet the most flamboyant expression of love is in the concluding song, Sommertage.

Text: Kimmo Korhonen

Lotta Wennäkoski

Verdigris

“The genesis of a work can progress in many ways. But there has to be an all-pervasive idea, something that can generate a title, a sound and perhaps even harmony.”
Lotta Wennäkoski often finds inspiration in extra-musical elements. However, instead of writing programme music in the traditional sense, she translates the moods and ideas generated by the aforementioned “all-pervasive idea” into the language of music. Her works are rich and colourful, their sound world often expanding into various modern means of expression and noise without specific pitch. She has described her recent works as “fast tonal colour music”, with a palette extending from sensitive, fragile lyricism to dissonant roughness.
With her mastery of colour, Wennäkoski has embraced the orchestra as her most suitable instrument, but she has also written chamber music and vocal music and is working on an opera for the Savonlinna Opera Festival. She has also attained international success, perhaps most prominently with Flounce (2017), which was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the famous Last Night of the Proms.
Verdigris (2015) was written to a commission from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. In honour of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sibelius, the commissioning orchestra expressed a wish for the piece to include some sort of reference to Sibelius’s music. Not wishing to touch Sibelius’s symphonies, which she greatly admires, Wennäkoski turned to his early tone poem En Saga. She noted that its backbeat rhythms and string arpeggios were suitably closely related to elements in her own idiom. Sibelius’s Andante festivo also makes a cameo appearance. The result is a vivacious poem in music where Wennäkoski asks the musicians to add whispering to the sound now and again. The title refers to the layer of green oxidisation that appears on the surface of certain metals – here perhaps to be understood as the patina of age through which we can discern fragments of En Saga.

Text: Kimmo Korhonen

Jean Sibelius

Symphony No. 7 in C major op. 105

Although Sibelius’s last three symphonies were written partly in parallel, each of them is an individual with its own unique features. While the Fifth Symphony radiates with the power of nature on a cosmic scale and the Sixth Symphony glows with a gently nostalgic light, the Seventh Symphony (1924) is classical in a purebred sense, its ethos and nobility undisturbed by being cast in a decidedly unconventional single-movement form.

When Sibelius conducted the premiere of the Seventh Symphony in Stockholm in March 1924, it was titled Fantasia sinfonica. He referred to this title on a few occasions subsequently before finally adding it to his numbered symphonies. No doubt his hesitation to call the work a symphony had to do with the single-movement form. Nevertheless, the Seventh Symphony can be considered the logical culmination of his formal development in the symphonic genre. It was not that Sibelius was the first ever to write a symphony in a single movement, since both Mendelssohn and Schumann, for instance, had experimented with tying the traditional movements of a symphony together with bridges. Sibelius, though, progressed to a more thorough and more organic integration of elements.

The Seventh Symphony acquired its single-movement form as the result of an extensive gestation process. In the early stages of the work, Sibelius outlined a three-movement symphony, the finale of which he described as a “Hellenic rondo”. It is possible to discern the three-movement architecture underlying the work, because it begins as a slow movement (Adagio) and has a scherzo-like section towards the middle (Vivacissimo), and the bright finale-like section at the end (Allegro moderato), easily fits the description of a “Hellenic rondo”. However, there are bridges and transitions, dovetailed and nested sections, subsurface thematic connections and a coda bringing all the elements together that transform the end result into something that is at once genuinely pluralist and genuinely indivisible. Sibelius’s mastery in using the orchestra to facilitate continuity underlines the structural unity of the work. It is often both impossible and unnecessary to define precisely where one idea ends and another begins.

The key thematic elements in the Seventh Symphony are the ascending scale in the opening measures, the following pastoral woodwind motif and the noble trombone theme that crowns the slow opening section. The last of these is the most important, appearing three times at culminating points in the work. It is also important in the sense that it bears a motif-level relationship to the themes of both the scherzo and the “Hellenic rondo”. The third culmination marked by the trombone theme is the dramatic high point of the entire work, but the culmination continues in an intense string texture, and the tension persists until a recapitulation of the trombone theme and the pastoral motif dispels it. The resulting catharsis is both liberating and nostalgic, almost as if Sibelius already knew that this would be the end point of his symphony cycle.

Text: Kimmo Korhonen

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