Songs of Death

Friday 11.10.2019 19.00 Season concert 4
from 25/19/11 € Espoo Cultural Centre
Platinum 2020-2021 Gold 2020-2021
Friday 11.10.2019 19.00 from 25/19/11 € Espoo Cultural Centre
Platinum 2020-2021 Gold 2020-2021

Ryan Bancroft, winner of the international Malko Competition for conductors in 2018, dazzles the audience with exquisitely shaped music. The lucid tones of Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony meet a mixture of Western and Eastern influences in the music of Takemitsu. Mika Kares appears as bass soloist in powerful works by Mussorgsky and Kokkonen.



Tōru Takemitsu

How slow the wind

Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu has for long been the Asian composer most frequently performed in Europe, so much so that he is seen as a musical embodiment of Asian culture. But he is not really a feasible example of this in the sense that in his style there is scarcely any distinction to be made between ‘European’ and ‘Asian’ elements. Both are present but not in opposition in his music: instead, they complement and merge into one another.
When Takemitsu was growing up, Western music was banned in Japan. After the Second World War, he consciously began to explore European music and to distance himself from Japanese culture. In the 1960s he began to re-explore his Japanese roots.

How Slow the Wind (1991), typical of the synthesis style of his late works, has a poetic, nature-inspired title, as indeed many of Takemitsu’s works. Nature was an important source of inspiration for him. The title is from a poem by American poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886); the full quote is: “How slow the wind – / how slow the sea – / how late their Feathers be!” Takemitsu’s work is bright, impressionistically meditative music full of the timeless beauty of mysteriously swaying moods. The melodic nucleus of the work is the seven-note motif introduced by the oboe. This appears often in the course of the work while undergoing a subtle transformation.

Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

Modest Musorgski / Dmitri Šostakovitš

Songs and dances of death

Modest Mussorgsky was the most uncultured and forceful of the Russian 19th-century composers, the veritable archetype of a creative genius akin to a force of nature. He was at his finest when writing vocal music and solo songs are an important category in his output

In Songs and Dances of Death, Mussorgsky sketches out four images of death with the psychological force that was his hallmark. The songs are narratives, akin to musical short stories or miniature dramas. In ‘Lullaby’, a mother watches by the bedside of her sick child until Death decisively takes her place. In ‘Serenade’, Death is an unknown knight who seduces a sick young maiden with his song. In ‘Trepak’, Death encounters a peasant who is drunk and has lost his way in a blizzard. They dance together until the peasant sinks down into a snowdrift. Allusions to the Dies irae melody emphasise the danse macabre character of the song. Finally, in ‘Field Marshal’ Death harvests a battlefield full of corpses and wounded soldiers.

Mussorgsky wrote Songs and Dances of Death for voice and piano, but the cycle has been orchestrated multiple times. The version by Dmitri Shostakovich dates from 1962.

Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

Joonas Kokkonen

Paavo’s Monologue I ‘I cannot open the door’ from the opera ‘The Last Temptations’

The opera Viimeiset kiusaukset [The Last Temptations] by Joonas Kokkonen, premiered at the Finnish National Opera in September 1975, was the culmination and synthesis of the composer’s output. It is his by far most expansive and powerful work.

The Last Temptations is based on the eponymous play by Lauri Kokkonen, a second cousin of Joonas Kokkonen, written in 1960. The main character of the play and the opera is a historical figure, a lay preacher and Revivalist movement leader named Paavo Ruotsalainen, reflecting a spiritual context that was very important for Kokkonen.

Kokkonen wrote the role of Paavo specifically for Martti Talvela, the Finnish bass singer titan. The role is extensive and psychologically taxing, coming to a head in Paavo’s two great monologues, one in each act. Paavo’s first monologue “I cannot open the door” is in the latter half of Act I, in Scene 6. It follows a dramatic argument between Paavo and his wife Riitta, which concludes with Riitta seizing an axe and throwing it at him when he attempts to take the last loaf of bread in the house with him as provender on a preaching excursion. In the monologue, Paavo is adrift among his memories in his feverish visions, journeying along and – having encountered a barrier that he could not open – returning to the world of his home.

Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

Jean Sibelius

Symphony no. 6 in D minor op. 104

Completing the Sixth Symphony in early 1923 marked the end of a transitional period in Sibelius’s career: he had not completed any significant new works in several years

Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony is a profoundly classical and timeless work in its balanced idiom and perfect proportions, The score has no key signature, but the key is not C major – it is D Dorian. The first movement begins in a serene flow from which the opening Allegro emerges; yet the tempo remains the same throughout the movement.

The slow movement begins with cool chords on the flutes and bassoons, against which a simple violin melody is juxtaposed. The movement takes the form of a freely conceived set of variations. The third movement is an energetic, uptempo scherzo.

The finale begins with a calm dialogue between instrument groups but takes a dramatic turn towards the middle, growing in three waves to a culmination. This is not the end of the work, however: the themes of the opening section return but in a new guise, underpinned by a symphonic Allegro pulsation. As the energy fades, the music flows into a fading coda that is one of the most touching things that Sibelius ever wrote.

Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

Meet the Artists


Interview with Ryan Bancroft and Mika Kares.
Arranged by the Friends of Tapiola Sinfonietta.


Show all concerts