H C Andersen’s beloved story The Little Mermaid is musically and imaginatively interpreted by Alexander Zemlinsky. World-famous cellist Truls Mørk will visit Berwaldhallen several times this season, but this will be the first, where he’ll perform Ernest Bloch’s beautiful, Hebrew rhapsody, Schelomo. The ocean theme is completed by Debussy’s billowing La Mer.
Composer, educator and conductor Alexander Zemlinsky is perhaps best known posthumously as Schönberg’s and Korngold’s teacher, but in recent decades his music has experienced a renaissance, not least regarding his Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) based on H.C. Andersen’ story. Zemlinsky initially called his work a symphonic poem, but abandoned the idea of a clear narrative and at the première in 1905, the work was given the title “Fantasy for Orchestra”. In The Mermaid, Zemlinsky created delectable, colourful and atmospheric music, and it is not difficult to understand why the piece is now played regularly in concert halls around the world.
Klaus Mäkelä has been the first guest conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since the autumn of 2018. However, he began his career as a cellist and the cello plays a leading role in this concert, where one of the world’s leading cellists, Truls Mørk, performs Ernest Bloch’s Hebrew rhapsody, Schelomo. The origin of the work dates from the beginning of the First World War when Bloch, who was of Jewish origin, in his desperation at humanity’s wickedness turned to Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. He started to outline a work for voice and orchestra but realized that the languages in which he was proficient did not suit what he wanted to express. Then he heard the cellist Aleksandr Barjanskij at a concert and realized that here was the “voice” he had been searching for: that of the cello. Bloch named the work Schelomo, the Hebrew name for the King of Israel, Solomon, who according to legend wrote Ecclesiastes.
Claude Debussy did not grow up by the sea, but in a Paris suburb, however his memories of childhood summers spent on the French south coast were extremely vivid to him even as an adult, and his love of the sea persisted throughout his entire life. “Symphonic sketches”, as he called La Mer, premièred in 1905, the same year as Zemlinsky’s The Mermaid. Debussy uses the orchestra in an innovative way with unusual instrument combinations, and he creates distinctive melodic figures and a shimmering, sonorous abundance of sound gaining inspiration from Javanese music, amongst other things. One of the first people to write a biography of Debussy, music researcher Edward Lockspeiser, aptly commented about La Mer that “we are moving from the 19th century to the 20th century in this music”. Many argue that Debussy’s composition, along with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, should be considered one of the seminal works of musical modernism.
Text: Axel Lindhe
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.
Since autumn 2018, the rising star Klaus Mäkelä has been the first guest conductor for the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He made his debut with the orchestra in September 2017 with Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7. “Every time I am here, the orchestra makes me feel at home”, Mäkelä says. “It’s always a pleasure to perform here. From the very start, there is always a very high standard and it just gets better, which is very inspiring.” In a short time, Mäkelä has had a tremendous impact at home in Finland as well as around Europe. In the autumn of 2017, he made his debut as an opera conductor with The Magic Flute at the Finnish National Opera, where he will soon assist Esa-Pekka Salonen in a production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelunge, which will continue until spring 2021. In the autumn of 2020, he will take up the position as Chief Conductor for the Oslo Philharmonic and he is also Artist in Association at the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival. Mäkelä is also an award-winning cellist who has performed as concert soloist as well as chamber musician, and he plays a Giovanni Grancino from 1698 on loan from the OP Art Foundation.
With a combination of artistic integrity, intensity and elegance, the cellist Truls Mørk has played his way to the very top as a soloist. He performs with the foremost orchestras around the world and has recently performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, Orchestre de Paris and Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, to mention but a few. Mørk has recorded the great solo concerts of Dvořák and Elgar, as well as Britten and Shostakovich, and also the collective Cello Suites of both Bach and Britten. He has also begun touring with the pianist Behzod Abduraimov. Mørk is dedicated to contemporary music and has performed more than 30 works, such as Krzysztof Penderecki’s Concerto for Three Cellos, Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s Cello Concerto and Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Towards the Horizon.