THIS CONCERT HAS BEEN CANCELED - Pictures at an Exhibition
This year’s edition of the Baltic Sea Festival has been cancelled. Read more at balticseafestival.com
Karin Rehnqvist paints an altogether contemporary portrait of our planet and gives a voice – painful and urgent – to our beautiful but tortured world. And then, Mussorgsky’s classic piano suite in Ravel’s equally classic 1922 orchestral arrangement provides an opportunity for self-reflection.
“It is difficult not to touch upon the vulnerable condition of our planet, so this is my commentary, or rather my investigation. Music is my truth-teller to whom I pose my questions. The answers are not always easy to interpret. They may be multifaceted, just like life.” That is how Karin Rehnqvist describes her choral and orchestral work Silent Earth, co-commissioned by the Eduard van Beinum Foundation for Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, performed here for the first time in Sweden.
Our own twenties have only just begun. How will we look back at them? Will this be the era when we succeed in sharing and spreading our commitment and our empathy? Will this be the time when we unite around solutions to humanity’s shared challenges?
Silent Earth is a collaboration with the librettist, playwright and author Kerstin Perski, a result of improvisations and shared fantasizing. Together, they have already created the children’s opera Beauty School, the orchestral fairy tale When the Earth Sings and the all-evening opera Stranded.
“One night, we imagined ourselves sitting on another planet, from where we could see our own beautiful Earth from a distance. Both of us have serious concerns about the current crisis, regarding both the climate and the politics surrounding the issue. This is a matter of our world’s destiny”, Karin Rehnqvist tells us.
The first movement of Silent Earth is desolate. Towards the end of the second movement, the choir cries out in despair: “Save yourself from us! Save us from ourselves!” Karin Rehnqvist argues that music, by giving us a deeper understanding of life and what it means to be human, can help us to grieve as well as to rejoice.
“There was, strangely enough, something comforting about sitting there, on another planet, even if it was only in our imagination. We are living in grave times, where artists also need to do their part. Even though the theme is terrifying, composing must always be joyous; otherwise, the music will not come alive. It was wonderful to gradually open yourself up to the sounds that emerged, even if, during the process, the force of the expression sometimes frightened me.”
In a different twenties – les années folles, “the crazy years” in Paris, the capital of art – Maurice Ravel took the barely fifty-year-old piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition and made it his own. He created a loving, and very French orchestration of the Russian masterpiece by the tousled and unruly Modest Mussorgsky.
“Art is not an end in itself, but a means of addressing humanity”, Musorgsky said, not unlike Karin Rehnqvist. He leads us through several rooms of paintings belonging to a recently deceased friend, speaking to us through the bickering women at the market in Limoges, the laughter of children in the Tuileries Garden and in the darkness of the crypt.
We look back at 1870s Russia through 1920s Parisian glasses, and regard the 1920s through a 2020s prism. Today, we remember the 1920s as a decade of optimism, glamour and democratization. But what kind of world did Ravel the impressionist see when he so imaginatively added colour to Mussorgsky’s piano music? And what art will accompany us into the 2020s?
Text: Janna Vettergren
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.
For more than 90 years, the Swedish Radio Choir has contributed to the development of the Swedish a cappella tradition. Under the leadership of legendary conductor Eric Ericson, the choir earned great international renown and is hailed as one of the best choirs in the world today. The choir members’ ability to switch between powerful solo performances and seamlessly integrating themselves in the ensemble creates a unique and dynamic instrument praised by critics and music lovers alike, as well as by the many guest conductors who explore and challenge the choir’s possibilities.
The Swedish Radio Choir was founded the same year as the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and the choir had its first concert in May 1925. Right from the start, the choir had high ambitions with a conscious aim to perform contemporary music.
Since January 2019, Marc Korovitch is the choirmaster of the Swedish Radio Choir with responsibility for the ensemble’s continued artistic development. Two of the choir’s former chief conductors, Tõnu Kaljuste and Peter Dijkstra, were appointed conductors laureate in November 2019. Both maintain a close relationship with the choir and make regular guest performances. A new chief conductor is currently being recruited.
Lauded for his deeply informed and intelligent artistic leadership, Dima Slobodeniouk has held the position of Music Director of the Spanish orchestra Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia since 2013. He is also Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Sibelius Festival, following his appointment in 2016, where he draws upon the powerful musical influences from his native Russia as well as his later homeland Finland.
Among the highlights of the 2019–2020 season, he returned to the Tanglewood Music Festival with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Yefim Bronfman, made debuts with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Vienna Symphony and San Francisco Symphony and returned to the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Houston Symphony. He went on tour with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia and soloist Isabelle Faust, and with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra he celebrated the Sibelius Festival’s 20th anniversary with soloists such as Karita Mattila.
A highlight of Slobodeniouk’s discography is a works by Kalevi Aho performed by Lahti Symphony Orchestra that received the BBC Music Magazine award in 2018. He has also recorded works by Stravinsky with Ilya Gringolts and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, works by Lotta Wennäkoski with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and works by Sebastian Fagerlund with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.