The Rite of Spring
Susanna Mälkki, one of the champions of modern music, offers three contrasting and complementary works. From Los Angeles, where she is guest conductor, she is bringing Andrew Norman’s Suspend, a tribute to Brahms and a contemplation of his inherent dualism as well as different types of opposites. Performed by the multitalented pianist Conrad Tao. From her native country comes Helsinki-born Lotta Wennäkoski’s Flounce, a playful and elegant orchestral work. And then The Rite of Spring, which has enchanted and seduced both audiences and practitioners since its première in 1913.
Listen to Conrad Tao talk about himself as a pianist and about Andrew Norman’s Suspend.
On May 29, 1913, when the cream of Parisian culture took their seats in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, they were scarcely prepared for what was to follow. With The Firebird and Petrushka, Stravinsky had provided a hint of what he was capable of, but with The Rite of Spring, he offered music that was groundbreaking: unrestrained energy, eruptive vitality and bold rhythm streamed towards a dismayed audience. No-one previously had used the orchestra in such a daring way – the bow strokes stamped out syncopated rhythms, the French horns bellowed and the percussion raged in a cascade of unbridled ferocity. Today we are still amazed at the primordial power, inventiveness and imagination of this epoch-making work.
Stravinsky was an exceptional talent and the same can be said of pianist Conrad Tao. Five years ago, he performed at Berwaldhallen for the first time and this season we welcome him on three separate occasions. It is hard to believe that he is only 24 years old – his curriculum vitae reveals a musician with an impressive career behind him. He debuted as a concert pianist when he was only four years old, and Tao is certainly something of a universal musical genius: he is also a violinist and composer with several acclaimed works under his belt.
Award-winning composer Andrew Norman stands out as one of the most exciting American composers today. In Suspend, a fantasy for piano, Norman has been influenced by Brahms and two of his most central melodic motifs: F-A-E, Frei aber einsam (Free but lonely) and F-A-F, Frei aber froh (Free but happy). Norman has spoken about his work as a contemplation of “Brahmsian dualism”. A reflection on opposites such as spontaneity and control, sentiment and structure, indulgence and self-control. Suspend premièred in Los Angeles in 2014 with pianist Emanuel Ax and conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
Los Angeles is currently one of Susanna Mälkki’s places of work. She is the principal guest conductor of the city’s philharmonic orchestra as well as chief conductor of the Helsinki City Orchestra. Mälkki has become known as a champion of modern music and was previously the music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. She is a much sought-after conductor the world over and was also the first woman to conduct the opera orchestra at La Scala in Milan.
Helsinki-born Lotta Wennäkoski studied at the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Budapest and at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Her work Flounce was performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2017, led by her fellow compatriot, Sakari Oramo. Wennäkoski has said that she was fascinated by the English word flounce and its dual meanings, rush and ruffle. The music is characterised by fast movements as well as passages in a more ornamental style with a lighter and more poetic mood.
Text: Axel Lindhe
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras, with a worldwide reputation and a repertoire that combines the major classical works as well as exciting new music. In collaboration with the most important conductors, soloists and composers, there is a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s extensive and high-quality music-making has been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades and they regularly perform at international festivals and concert halls. “The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!” he continues. The first radio orchestra was formed in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and 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 and over the years has had such distinguished chief conductors as Sergiu Celibidache, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Listen to Conrad Tao talking about Andrew Normans ”Suspend”.