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Maurice Ravel wrote the suite Le Tombeau de Couperin on the eve of the 1920s, in memory of his friends who died in the First World War. Since Ravel believed that “the dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence”, the music is light and optimistic, just like the trio of Mozart arias that accompany the suite. Klaus Mäkelä also treats the audience to Sibelius’s two final, masterful symphonies.

Back in 1998, the Swedish baritone Peter Mattei had his international breakthrough in theatre legend Peter Brook’s production of Don Giovanni in Aix-en-Provence. He has since returned many times to the role as the young nobleman, including at the Metropolitan in New York. Peter Mattei has toured the world with other Mozart roles as well. Here, he will be performing arias from Cosí fan tutte, The Marriage of Figaro and the lesser-known opera La finta giardiniera in an entirely new context, as we alternate between them and Maurice Ravel’s four orchestrated movements from his piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin. By switching between the arias and the dance pieces, Peter Mattei, frequently praised for his acting talent and stage presence, will have the opportunity to step into new roles.

In the midst of a raging world war, between 1914 and 1917, Ravel wrote Le Tombeau de Couperin, originally as six movements for piano, based on French Baroque dance suites. After a brief career as a driver in the military, he was discharged due to depression following the death his mother, but he dedicated the six movements to friends lost in the war. The piano suite premièred in April 1919 and was so successful that Ravel’s publisher asked for an orchestral version.

When he orchestrated four of the movements, he kept the ornate phrasing of the piano part. The work was premièred in this form by the Pasdeloup Orchestra in February 1920. In November of that year, the work was picked up by the Ballet Suédois, the experimental dance ensemble that was at the centre of Parisian cultural life between 1920 and 1925, with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées as their home stage.

In the 1920s, Jean Sibelius from Finland was considered the finest composer in the Nordic countries, next to Carl Nielsen from Denmark. He was also internationally successful, mainly in England and America. He often conducted his own works, frequently in Gothenburg where his friend and colleague Wilhelm Stenhammar was the orchestra’s artistic director. Sibelius also composed his subdued sixth symphony as a tribute to his friend. The symphony, completed in 1923 and premièred in Helsinki, has sometimes been called “the symphony of silence” and is the quietest of all his symphonies. It has a distinctive character with its hint of Dorian mode, possibly inspired by old Finnish folk melodies.

The seventh symphony is considerably clearer in its expression. Sibelius described the music as full of “the joy of life and vitality”. Initially, he had intended to write the piece in several movements but at the première, which he conducted himself, he called it “Fantasia Sinfonica” and it comprised one single movement. After the concert at Auditorium in Stockholm in March 1924, he wrote to his wife Aino: “Yesterday a concert with great success. My newest work is probably one of my best.” The following year, the score was published with the title Symphony No 7. With its exultant melodies, variation in themes, mood and form, as well as seamless changes in tempo, this work is usually considered the apogee of Sibelius’s symphonies. Klaus Mäkelä, who conducted the piece in his first performance with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2017, describes it as “perhaps the world’s most perfect symphony”.

Text: Anna Hedelius




The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is known worldwide as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with an exciting and varied repertoire and a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s high-quality music making as well as its collaborations with internationally renowned composers, conductors and soloists have been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades.

The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!

The first radio orchestra was formed in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts. Since then, the orchestra’s concerts have always been broadcast by the Swedish Radio. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967.

Through the years, the orchestra has had several distinguished chief conductors. Two of them, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen, have since been appointed conductors laureate together with Valery Gergiev, a regular guest conductor and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival.

Klaus Mäkelä is Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since the 2018–2019 season. Starting autumn 2020, he will be Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Artist in Association of the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival.

In the 2019–2020 season, he made his first appearance with the NDR Elbphilharmonie, Münchner Philharmoniker, Dutch Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and London Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. He also returned to orchestras such as Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

Mäkelä made his operatic debut at the Finnish National Opera conducting Mozart’s The Magic Flute and a concertante performance of Erkki Melartin’s Aino. He is also an acclaimed cello soloist who has performed with Finnish orchestras such as the Lahti and Kuopio Symphony Orchestras as well as appearing at many Finnish festivals including the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival and Naantali Music Festival. He plays a Giovanni Grancino cello from 1698, kindly made available by the OP Art Foundation. In 2019, he was awarded the Finland Prize for his contributions to Finnish art and culture.

In the winter of 2019–2020, baritone Peter Mattei sang his first Wozzeck, the title role of Alban Berg’s opera, at the Metropolitan in New York. In January 2020 he also performed Schubert’s Winterreise with pianist Lars-David Nilsson at Carnegie Hall in New York. Last season, the same duo went on an acclaimed Nordic concert tour with Winterreise that led to an album recording as well as a TV version for SVT.

Last season, Peter appeared in the title role of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at both the Metropolitan and at Wiener Staatsoper. It gave him his international breakthrough, in Peter Brooks’ production at Aix-en-Provence, and remains one of his favourite roles. He has since performed it at prominent venues such as the Royal Swedish Opera, Scottish Opera, Opéra National de Paris and Teatro alla Scala.

Peter made a sensational debut performance as Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal at the Metropolitan in the spring of 2013. The following season saw yet another success with Wolfram in Tannhäuser at Staatsoper Berlin. Among his many other roles are the count in Le Nozze di Figaro, the title role of Billy Budd, Don Fernando in Fidelio and Pentheus in Daniel Börtz’ The Bacchae, directed by Ingmar Bergman at the Royal Swedish Opera.

Approximate concert length: 1 h 45 min (with intermission)