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Shostakovich & Korngold

After his fifth symphony had re-established Shostakovich’s official position, Symphony No. 6, came out as a more personal reflection of the magnificent and prompt fifth, and is a darker and more introverted piece. Erich Wolfgang Korngold is associated by many with wonderfully extravagant film music and in his Violin Concerto, he reconnects with Hollywood’s boldly saturated palette.

When the young, rising star Klaus Mäkelä debuted at Berwaldhallen in the autumn of 2017, he made such a strong impression on the musicians that shortly thereafter he was asked to become their principal guest conductor. Consequently, he became the youngest ever person to be offered an extended contract with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Mäkelä has an avid interest in Russian music and showed, in his acclaimed debut with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra when he conducted Shostakovich, that he is a force to be reckoned with in this repertoire.

Shostakovich composed 15 symphonies. The first was created as his graduation piece at the conservatory during the experimental 1920s in the Soviet Union. However, times were to become more difficult and his Symphony No. 6 can be interpreted as a reflection of the arduous circumstances under which the composer worked. A dark first movement is a counterweight to the animated subsequent movements; according to conductor Mark Wigglesworth, Shostakovich wanted to use contrast to illustrate the irrational world in which he lived. With this in mind, the circus-like final movement almost becomes an ironic comment to Stalin’s wish for optimistic and boisterous finales.

At first glance, Shostakovich and Korngold may not appear to have much in common, but they were both prodigies of sorts and also diligent composers of film music. Shostakovich garnered experience of the new media through his work as a silent-film pianist, and went on to write the music for close to 40 films. Korngold came into contact with film after emigrating to the United States in the 1930s, where, for more than a decade, he gained great renown as a film composer.

In his Violin Concerto from 1947, Korngold develops themes from film music, and it is truly an extravagant palette of sounds and a wealth of nostalgic colour that is presented to the listener. But there are also melodic fantasy, rhythmic vitality and virtuoso challenges for this evening’s soloist, Elina Vähälä, who had her concert debut at the tender age of twelve. A few years ago, she performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in front of a TV audience of hundreds of millions. Vähälä is also Professor of Violin at the Karlsruhe University of Music.

Text: Axel Lindhe


SWEDISH RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
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Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester. Foto: Julian Hargreaves.

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 multi-award-winning orchestra has been praised for its exceptional, wide-ranging musicianship as well as collaborations with the world’s foremost composers, conductors and soloists.

Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the audience in the hall, the orchestra reaches many many listeners on the radio and the web and through it´s partnership with EBU. Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play and with Swedish Television, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top orchestras.

“The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, Music Director 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 orchestra is also proud to have Klaus Mäkelä as its Principal Guest Conductor since 2018.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish Radio Symphony was one of the only orchestras in the world which never stopped playing.  Its innovative and creative approach to making music in these dark times helped its public to cope and even made the news itself.

The first radio orchestra was founded in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967. Through the years, the orchestra has had several distinguished Music Directors. Two of them are Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Klaus Mäkelä. Foto: Marco Borggreve.

Klaus Mäkelä is Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. With Orchestre de Paris he assumed the role of Music Director in September 2021 and has been the orchestra’s Artistic Advisor since the start of the 2020/21 season. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony and Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival. An exclusive Decca Classics Artist, Klaus Mäkelä has recorded the complete Sibelius Symphony cycle with the Oslo Philharmonic as his first project for the label, to be released in 2022.

Klaus Mäkelä launched the Oslo Philharmonic 2021/22 season in August with a special concert featuring Saariaho’s Asteroid 4179: Toutatis, Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra, two new works by Norwegian composer Mette Henriette and Sibelius Lemminkäinen. A similarly wide range of repertoire is presented throughout his second season in Oslo, including major choral works by Bach, Mozart and William Walton, Mahler Symphony No. 3 and Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 10 and 14 with soloists Mika Kares and Asmik Grigorian. Recent and new works include compositions by Sally Beamish, Unsuk Chin, Jimmy Lopez, Andrew Norman and Kaija Saariaho. In Spring 2022 Klaus Mäkelä and the Oslo Philharmonic will perform the complete Sibelius Symphony cycle at the Wiener Konzerthaus and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and give additional concerts at the Paris Philharmonie and London Barbican.

With Orchestre de Paris, Klaus Mäkelä performed at the summer festivals of Granada and Aix en Provence. For his first concert in the 2021/ 22 season he conducted a new work by Unsuk Chin entitled Spira, Richard Strauss Four Songs Op 27 with soloist Lise Davidsen and Mahler Symphony No. 1. His first season as Music Director also features the music of Ligeti and Dutilleux alongside Biber, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky.

In the 2021/22 season Klaus Mäkelä appears as a Portrait Artist at the Wiener Konzerthaus conducting the Wiener Symphoniker and Oslo Philharmonic and playing cello in chamber music. He also guest conducts the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Concertgebouworkest, London Philharmonic, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Münchner Philharmoniker. In summer 2022 he returns to the Verbier Festival to conduct the Verbier Festival and Verbier Festival Chamber orchestras as well as perform as a chamber musician. He also makes his first appearance at the Jurmala Festival in Riga with the Mariss Jansons Festival Orchestra.

In the 2020/21 season Klaus Mäkelä appeared with the Concertgebouworkest, Münchner Philharmoniker, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, NDR Elbphilharmonie, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Tapiola Sinfonietta. As Artist in Residence at Spain’s Granada Festival he conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada and Orchestre de Paris. At the Verbier Festival he conducted and performed cello in a chamber music programme.

Mäkelä studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy with Jorma Panula and cello with Marko Ylönen, Timo Hanhinen and Hannu Kiiski. As a soloist, he has performed with several Finnish orchestras and as a chamber musician with members of the Oslo Philharmonic, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.