Worthy of a 150th Birthday – Lahti International Sibelius Festival 2015 (and 2014)

To hear Kullervo in the land of its birth.

The press release revealing, for the first time, details of the 2015 Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland, came out yesterday.  And…. tell you what, let’s just get to it:

Sib web(Image Source: www.sibelius150.fi)

16th International Sibelius Festival 2015

31 August – 6th September 2015 (150th Anniversary of Sibelius’s Birth)

Programme:
Most of Sibelius’s major orchestral works will be performed, among them “all seven symphonies, Kullervo, the Violin Concerto, the Lemminkäinen Suite and numerous symphonic poems”.

Performers:
Lahti Symphony Orchestra, with guest appearances by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra (London)

Conductors:
Okko Kamu (Festival Artistic Director), Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo and Leif Segerstam.

 

15th International Sibelius Festival 2014

4 – 7 September 2014

Original versions of Sibelius’s orchestral works, including the Violin Concerto and Fifth Symphony.

  * * * * *

The concept of the 2014 programme  is apparently to act as a “prequel”, preparing the way for the jubilee programme of 2015. I was initially a little more excited by the 2014 programme, because the privilege to hear the original versions of the Violin Concerto and the Fifth is supremely rare. In my case, certainly, the chance of a lifetime. In particular, the original 1915 version of the Fifth Symphony – which in an old Inkpot review I described as being darker, and represents a sort of missing link between the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies (which are so very different). I look forward to hearing this “live”, even if I do feel a little guilt hearing something Sibelius wouldn’t want us to hear.

As for the 2015 programme, it is as it should be. Nothing less than all the major works have to be played, principally the seven symphonies, as well as the other “symphonies”, Kullervo and the Lemminkäinen Suite. I’m pretty sure Tapiola will be played, and that completes the picture.

Will you be going to Lahti in 2014 and 2015? I will. Look for me if you’re going.

Here’s the press release for further details:

Source: Sinfonia Lahti

BBC Symphony Orchestra (London) to make guest appearance at the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius Festival in 2015

29/08/2013

In 2015 the musical world will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius (1865–1957). The Lahti Symphony Orchestra will play its part in the celebrations by organizing its annual Sibelius Festival on a larger scale than usual, in terms both of the music played and of the artists taking part. The festival will last a week, from 31st August to 6th September 2015, and there will be concerts not only by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra but also by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra.

The total of six orchestral concerts at the sixteenth International Sibelius Festival will be conducted by Okko Kamu (artistic director of the festival), Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo and Leif Segerstam. Of these conductors Vänskä and Saraste, during their own periods in Lahti, have previously served as artistic directors of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Sibelius Festival, before Kamu took over as principal conductor in 2011. In particular during Vänskä’s twenty-year reign as chief conductor the Lahti Symphony Orchestra gained world renown, to a large extent as a result of its work with the music of Sibelius.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra will give two concerts, one conducted by Okko Kamu and the other by its principal conductor Sakari Oramo; the concert by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra will be led by its principal conductor emeritus, Leif Segerstam.

At the festival’s concerts most of Sibelius’s major orchestral works will be performed, among them all seven symphonies, Kullervo, the Violin Concerto, the Lemminkäinen Suite and numerous symphonic poems. In addition there will be chamber concerts and other Sibelius-themed events. Further programme and soloist details will be announced later.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s first visit to Finland was in 1956, then too in a Sibelian spirit

‘The 2015 festival will offer Sibelius enthusiasts a unique, week-long opportunity to hear performances of the composer’s most important works by conductors who have earned world renown for their Sibelius interpretations. My fellow conductors have been happily unanimous in agreeing to the programme that I suggested’, says the festival’s artistic director Okko Kamu, and goes on: ‘It is fantastic that the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which played Sibelius in Finland already in the 1950s, has accepted our invitation and will be coming to Lahti at its busiest time, during the Proms. And it goes without saying that we also invited the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, with its great history of playing Sibelius; my own father played in the orchestra in Sibelius’s time, and I myself have a close personal relationship with it. It is also excellent that we shall present such a major event in the obvious setting of our splendid home, the Sibelius Hall.’

‘It is a great honour for the BBC Symphony Orchestra to be invited to appear in the 2015 Lahti Festival most especially in such a significant year of celebration of the music of Sibelius. We are very excited to be appearing with our Chief Conductor, Sakari Oramo and a rare opportunity to work with Okko Kamu, performing alongside our colleagues in the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’, says Paul Hughes, general manager of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He goes on: ‘The BBCSO first visited Scandinavia on a four-country tour in June 1956. They gave two concerts in the Sibelius Festival, Helsinki, under the baton of Sir Malcolm Sargent on 10th and 11th June and the repertoire was all-Sibelius, including Symphonies 1 and 3, three Historical Scenes, Finlandia, Tapiola and En saga. And the orchestra and Sargent were entertained by Sibelius himself at his home in Järvenpää.’

‘The invitation to perform at Lahti’s famous Sibelius Festival in our national composer’s jubilee year is a great joy and honour for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra’, says Gita Kadambi, general manager of the orchestra. Founded in 1882 by Robert Kajanus, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra has throughout its long history regarded it as a matter of honour to nurture the tradition that arose from the many decades of collaboration between Kajanus and Jean Sibelius. Between 1892 and 1923 Kajanus’s orchestra gave the first performances of most of Sibelius’s symphonic works, conducted by the composer himself. Sibelius was also present on the orchestra’s first foreign tour in the summer of 1900, on which occasion his music was heard for the first time in European concert halls.

Single tickets for the 2015 Sibelius Festival will be available from 1st September 2014; group and advance bookings begin in the spring of 2014.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius Festival

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra, widely appreciated internationally for its Sibelius interpretations both on disc and on concert tours, organizes its annual Sibelius Festival in September, in the hall that bears the composer’s name. The festival has taken place ever since the hall was completed in 2000. The idea of the festival is to offer Sibelius enthusiasts from all over the world a long weekend (Thursday to Sunday) of wide-ranging programmes reflecting various aspects of the composer’s music, played by the finest performers. In the same way that the famous Bayreuth Festival is devoted entirely to the music of Wagner, so too the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius Festival offers exclusively Sibelius.

Right from the start the festival has attracted international attention. Members of the audience – both groups and individuals – have come from all over Europe as well as such countries as the USA, Canada, Japan and Australia. Up to 20% of tickets have been sold to international visitors.

Each year the festival also attracts international press coverage. In 2003, for example, the prestigious Austrian newspaper Die Presse named the festival as the most important of its kind anywhere in the world. Over the years the festival has been featured by The Times (London), Die Welt (Berlin) and by New York Public Radio (WNYC).

The Sibelius Festivals in 2013 and 2014

This year’s Sibelius Festival will begin with a concert at the Sibelius Hall next Thursday, 5th September 2013, conducted by Okko Kamu, the orchestra’s principal conductor and artistic director of the festival. The festival’s theme is Sibelius’s music for the theatre.

The 2014 festival, conducted by Okko Kamu, will take place from 4th to 7th September 2014. The programme of the festival will prepare the way for the jubilee programme of 2015 and its focus will be on the original versions of Sibelius’s orchestral works, including the Violin Concerto and Fifth Symphony.

Source: Sinfonia Lahti

Lahti Sibelius Festival 2013 Online Brochure

Cover of the Sibelius Festival 2013 Brochure
Cover of the Sibelius Festival 2013 Brochure

You can now have a look at the full brochure for the Lahti Sibelius Festival 2013, from the Festival webpage.

The direct link to the interactive brochure is at

http://multimagazine.fi/index.php?id=Sibelius-festivaaliesite.

And do have a look! It loads swiftly, looks beautiful and even has sounds for page turns.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

The piano and chamber programme has also been revealed (see page 10 on the brochure). And oh my, what a rare treat. On 7th September, at the Kalevi Aho Hall in Lahti’s Music Institute, pianists Folke Gräsbeck and Peter Lönnqvist will be playing a 4-hand arrangement of Sibelius’s Symphony No.3, as well as excerpts from the theatre music for Jedermann and Scaramouche.

In addition to this, a tribute to Mrs Sibelius, in the form of the Adagio “Rakkaalle Ainolle” – To My Beloved Aino.

I shall regret having to miss the Symphony, a chance to hear Sibelius’s “most unfortunate child” in a version for piano.

For the Sunday programme on 8th September, “Sibelius on a Sunday Morning”, mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi will join the same pianists (with Lönnqvist also playing the harmonium) as well as violinist Jaakko Kuusisto and cellist Sanna Palas-Lassila in a programme of songs.

In all, a very fascinating programme for this year centred on the theme of theatre. At this moment, this Sibelius Nutcase still can’t afford to go this year. Ah well, life’s like that.

Sibelius Festival 2013 Brochure 3

Full Brochure:

http://multimagazine.fi/index.php?id=Sibelius-festivaaliesite

The Lahti Sibelius Festival 2013

Lahti Sibelius Festival 2013

“Legends, a Tempest and an Oriental Feast at the Sibelius Festival”

So goes the webpage of the 14th International Sibelius Festival of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, which will run from 5 – 8 September 2013, at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland.

Without further ado, here is the programme:

Thursday, 5 September
Musik zu einer Scène
Pelléas et Mélisande, concert suite
Scène de Ballet
King Christian II, concert suite
Cortège

Friday, 6 September
Kuolema (Death), original score
The Tempest, original score

Saturday, 7 September
Karelia Overture
Wedding March from Die Sprache der Vögel (The Language of the Birds)
Belshazzar’s Feast, concert suite
Lemminkäinen Suite

The chamber/ensemble programme for Saturday and Sunday are not yet confirmed. The above info comes courtesy of Andrew Barnett of the United Kingdom Sibelius Society, authority 100% certified.

It is a very very colourful programme, featuring Sibelius from almost every known angle. Regrettably, I probably will not be able to attend this year. Limited finances is cause, period.

What shall I most miss? Without doubt, it will be the complete score of The Tempest, which contain some truly wonderful music. Music that is pleasantly sylvan, pastoral elegance, as well as fearsome orchestral storms and some of Sibelius’ advanced sounds. Among these, I am most emotionally attached to the absolute final piece in the Tempest music, the Ossia – Epilogue.  As I have written before in my post called Sibelius’ Farewell – Thoughts on Sibelius’ Silence and Dilemma, Prospero’s Art, and Shakespeare’s Final Play – at 1 minute, 20 seconds long, its resonant nostalgia is utterly heartbreaking, and breathtakingly brief.

If you don’t already own this (note that it is NOT part of The Tempest SUITES) in one form or another, allow me to show you this old YouTube contribution of mine:

 

For these 80 seconds of melancholia alone would I go for this year’s festival.

Please visit http://www.sinfonialahti.fi/sibelius/en_GB/sibelius for information on ticketing for the Lahti Sibelius Festival and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra.

 

In his grand-daughter’s dreams: A Winter Evening with Sibelius

Sibelius’ grand-daughter plays her grandfather’s violin; world premiere concert performance of the Andantino in D major (1889)

* * * * *

My wife and I once aspired to have six daughters. Yes we were still young then, of course. I was inspired by Sibelius and Aino, who had six (though one, Kirsti, died at a very young age). All girls.  Practicalities of modern life limited what we can have, but still, somehow along the way, I always wanted daughters. So we have two. Per tradition then, my name shall not pass on. I don’t really mind. But, once in a while, I always wonder, where are Sibelius’ daughters and grand-children today?  And sometimes people ask on the internet, too.

All of Sibelius’ daughters have passed on, the last being Margareta, who lived from 1908 to 1988. Sibelius’ descendants do exist, though they no longer, it seems, bear his name.

But one still bears his violin.

Satu Jalas, Sibelius' grand-daughterSatu Jalas (left, b.1943) is the daughter of Margareta. In other words, she is Sibelius’ grand-daughter. She began studying the violin at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and was a student of that regal Belgian violin master, Arthur Grumiaux. Mdm Jalas has performed as a soloist, in orchestras and chamber ensembles in many parts of Europe and the USA; and has been teaching the violin at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Parma, Italy for more than 30 years.

Her grandfather gave her his violin when she was 12. It is an unnamed instrument with no date, but is believed to have been made by the renowned Austrian instrument maker  Jacob Stainer (c. 1617 – 1683), who is ranked alongside Stradivarius as maker of the finest violins in all of musical history.Despite this illustrious background, the violin was purchased by Sibelius’ uncle Pehr Sibelius, at no more than a flea market in St Petersburg. Uncle Pehr eventually gave the violin to his nephew in the mid-1880s, when the latter was about 20 years of age.

If you’re anywhere near Brighton in the UK now – hang around. I assume you’re a Sibelius fan since you’re reading this blog – and you’ll want to be at the following concert on 21st February.

A Winter Evening with Sibelius
Mdm Satu Jalas will be performing a programme of music for violin and piano, selected from those Sibelius wrote around the period of the First World War. With her is eminent Sibelius pianist Folke Gräsbeck, of Sibelius Edition fame.In addition to the pieces for duo, the concert will host the world première performance, played by Mr Gräsbeck, of a newly discovered piano piece by Sibelius – a D major Andantino (1889) written for Emma Kristina Marie-Louise Berndtson (‘Lulu’), the newly born daughter of a close friend.

According to the press release, two Sibelius manuscripts, previously unknown to scholars, were found at the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University in late 2012. Folke Gräsbeck comments:

‘They were not lost, only strangely neglected because of their “home” deep in the archives of Harvard University… The credit for “re-finding” these items goes to Pekka Helasvuo (editor of the string orchestra music in Breitkopf & Härtel’s JSW critical edition of Sibelius’s complete works)… The Andantino is strange in that it seems to have been planned to have a solo violin part, but not a single note is indicated on the line of the violin or soprano or whatever was meant. However, the “piano part”, as it now is written, sounds like completed piano music: the melodies are all there, i.e. this is not an accompaniment with a missing melody.’

Programme
– for violin & piano:
Romance in F major, Op. 78 No. 2 (1915)
Tanz-Idylle, Op. 79 No. 5 (1917)
On the Heath, Op. 115 No. 1 (1929)
Valse, Op. 81 No. 3 (1917)
– Talk by Satu Jalas discussing the violin and Sibelius (10–15 minutes).
 
– for piano solo:
Andantino in D major (1889) – world première concert performance – ‘Till Emma Kristina Marie-Louise Berndtson – Lulu’
Valse lyrique (1919; preliminary version of Op. 96a)
 
Sonatina in E major, Op. 80 (1915) for violin and piano
 
Three Humoresques (arranged for violin and piano by Karl Ekman):
Humoresque No. 1 in D minor, Op. 87 No. 1 (1917, rev. 1940)
Humoresque No. 4 in G minor, Op. 89b (1917)
Humoresque No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 89c (1917)

Date/Time
Thursday 21st February 2013 at 8.30 p.m. 

Venue
St Paul’s C.E. School, Brighton, BN1 3LP (Map)

Tickets
£7 and available via the Finnish School of Brighton. (Link to Contact Details)

Sibelius in 1881

I remember my grandfather’s tender smile when he asked what I had dreamt in the night. I remember how he corrected my left hand when I played the violin with him. He gave his violin to me when I was twelve, and with this instrument I shall here play some of his violin compositions. My life has taken me away from Finland, but my soul is there forever.

– Satu Jalas

Kavakos in Singapore

The Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos (not to be confused with the Spartan, who did not play the violin) will be playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on 8 September 2011. Curiously, no one, not even the SSO, has mentioned the fact that he is just about the only person in modern times to have performed the original 1903/04 version of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. He was the soloist in BIS’ 1992 world-premiere recording of the original score, which I reviewed at The Flying Inkpot in 1998 – the article is republished here.

Kavakos plays Sibelius with SSO 8 Sep 2011
SSO July-Sept 2011 Season

As far as I remember, after the recording, the score was returned to the Sibelius family. Leonidas Kavakos is thus the only violinist to have performed the original work since its one and only 1904 premire (which was a bit of a disaster by the way). In any case, this unique experience Mr Kavakos had probably makes his understanding of the concerto different from other violinists. Well worth hearing.

Here he is captured in Athens in 2008, performing the concerto (the final version). We’ll be able to catch him in Singapore on 8 September, 2011 at the Esplanade.

Somewhat inexplicably, the concerto is paired with Mahler’s First Symphony. The concert also marks the beginning of a complete symphony cycle by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Okko Kamu – only the second time in Singapore. The first complete Sibelius cycle was performed by The Philharmonic Orchestra under Lim Yau from 2007-2008.

Kavakos Plays Sibelius – 8 September 2011 (Thu), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47
MAHLER: Symphony No.1 in D major “Titan”
Leonidas Kavakos (violin), conducted by Lan Shui. Tickets from SISTIC. [Reviewed on Dust of Hue]

The Sibelius Symphonies: Finlandia – 16 September 2011 (Fri), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Finlandia
LALO: Cello Concerto in D minor
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.43
Ng Pei-Sian (Cello), conducted by Okko Kamu

The Sibelius Symphonies: Nos. 1 & 3 – 20 September 2011 (Tues), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.3 in C major, Op.52
MOZART: Piano Concerto No.23 in A major, K.488
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.39
Melvyn Tan (piano), conducted by Okko Kamu

This is Melvyn Tan’s debut with the SSO, and I for one am glad he has made it home.

The Sibelius Symphonies: Nos. 4 & 5 – 24 February 2012 (Fri), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63
SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82
Benjamin Grosvenor (piano), conducted by Okko Kamu [Reviewed on Dust of Hue]

The Sibelius Symphonies: Nos. 6 & 7 – 3 March 2012 (Sat), 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
SIBELIUS: Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105
Marc-André Hamelin (piano), conducted by Okko Kamu [Reviewed on Dust of Hue]

(Tickets from the usual SISTIC places).

Well, the SSO programmers have done well pairing the Sibelius symphonies with famous pianists. That should fill up some seats! And hopefully give a valuable opportunity to those unfamiliar with Sibelius’ symphonies to hear these masterpieces. Yes yes, I don’t think Sibelius is as popular as he should be, and I honestly don’t imagine many will deliberately attend a concert for his symphonies. Still, a complete symphony cycle with the national orchestra is an achievement.

I’m unable to say which of these concerts would be the most worth going – they all are. Though of course if I HAD to pick one, it would be the last one with the Seventh Symphony.

Marc-André Hamelin! I hope pianophiles will stay back to hear the final and greatest symphony of Sibelius! If not, can you give me your ticket? :)

Northern Exposure

Today, as children of the modern, we still experience the loneliness of individualism, the helplessness of being one among billions, and the desire to be significant, respected.

Sibelius was no different. Writing in the high modern period of the early 1900s, when great artists each sought their own style, he steadfastly defined one path in music which remains admired today by fans, musicians and scholars alike. Continue reading Northern Exposure

Jennifer Koh replaces Pike for July 30th Sibelius

Jennifer Koh – Photo by Janette Beckman, from jenniferkoh.com


Ah the serendipitous power of the web. I was googling for information on the soloist for the Singapore Symphony’s July 30th concert, featuring the Sibelius Violin Concerto, when I came across an SSO Press Release, dated July 8, announcing that Jennifer Pike, the young UK violinist originally slated to play here, will not be able to visit due to health reasons. In her place is the American violinist Jennifer Koh, who by the way is born of Korean parents.

This is interesting, since Miss Koh has played under Osmo Vänskä, and recorded the violin concerto of another Finnish composer, Uuno Klami, under the BIS label. I’ve taken the opportunity to republish it again here at dustofhue.com. This time, I know her Korean heritage.

http://www.sso.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=276:american-violinist-jennifer-koh-replaces-jennifer-pike-on-jul-30&catid=8:media-releases&Itemid=41

Osmo Vänskä’s debut in Singapore… conducting Mahler

Illustration © André Carrilho.

There was a time when concert-goers in Singapore generally did not expect any big names to play with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).  If memory serves me right, this was about the case in the earlier 1990s when I first began attending SSO concerts and also when I first started writing for The Flying Inkpot circa 1996. Not surprisingly this was also pre-Esplanade.  Still, we were treated to some big names (pre-Esplanade), among whom I can vividly recall the wonderful human being that is cellist Yo-Yo Ma (SSO 12 Mar 1999) and that icy duchess of violinists, Anne-Sophie Mutter (SSO 3-4 Jun 1999).

Continue reading Osmo Vänskä’s debut in Singapore… conducting Mahler