Jean Sibelius and his Muses: Songs inspired by sopranos Ida Ekman and Aino Ackté
Two women inspired Jean Sibelius to write most of his over 100 songs. In this retrospective of sopranos Ida Ekman and Aino Ackte, the presenters will offer a lecture recital examining the differing voices and temperaments of the two, their relationships with the composer, and a performance of some of the most important songs created for them.
Soprano Kathleen Roland-Silverstein is a Fulbright scholar, author of a Swedish song anthology, music reviewer for the Journal of Singing, and a member of the faculty at Syracuse University.
Mimmi Fulmer is the editor of Midnight Sun, an anthology of Nordic songs, and author of a book about Vision and Prayer. She is professor of voice and opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Pianist Russell Miller is professor of vocal coaching and repertoire at Eastman School of Music. He has performed internationally, notably with Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, Julia Broxholm and Jan Opalach.
Sibelius’s music will be featured at six of the BBC Prom concerts in 2017. All of these concerts will take place at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The concerts are as follows. Click on the links for further information and booking:
Saturday 15 July – Prom 2 Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Elgar: Symphony No. 1 Lisa Batiashvili, violin; Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim
Monday 17 July – Prom 5 Sibelius: Symphony No. 7
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 Behzod Abduraimov, piano; BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Thomas Søndergård
Tuesday 18 July – Prom 6
Shostakovich: October; Violin Concerto No. 1 Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 Nicola Benedetti, violin; BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Thomas Søndergård
Thursday 10 August – Prom 33 Sibelius: Karelia Suite; Luonnotar
Grieg: Peer Gynt, excerpts
Schumann: Cello Concerto
Hindemith: Symphony ‘Mathis der Maler’ Lise Davidsen, soprano; Alban Gerhardt, cello; BBC Philharmonic / John Storgårds
Tuesday 22 August – Prom 51 Sibelius: Scènes historiques – Suite No. 1
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
Elgar/Payne: Symphony No. 3 Javier Perianes, piano; BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
Saturday 9 September – Prom 75 (Last Night) Wennäkoski: Flounce Kodály: Budavári Te Deum Sargent: An Impression on a Windy Day Sibelius: Finlandia (with choir participation) Wagner: Tristan and Isolde – Prelude and Liebestod Adams: Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance
arr. Wood: Fantasia on British Sea-Songs Arne, arr. Sargent: Rule, Britannia!
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 Parry, orch. Elgar: Jerusalem
The National Anthem Soloists; BBC Singers;BBC Symphony Chorus; BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
The pianist Folke Gräsbeck has given a special Sibelius concert at Ainola for Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping of China.
The performance took place on Wednesday 5 April 2017. On Sibelius’s newly renovated Steinway piano, Folke Gräsbeck performed The Solitary Fir Tree, The Birch and The Spruce (from ‘The Trees’, Op. 75), The Columbine from Op. 85, Con passione and Finlandia. The rarity Con passione, JS 53 (1919), was selected because it was composed for the artist Oscar Parviainen, several of whose paintings are at Ainola.
The concert was organized at the instigation of Jenni Haukio, wife of President Sauli Niinistö of Finland, who knew of Peng Liyuan’s great liking for the music of Sibelius.
Born in Shandong, Peng Liyuan is head of the Chinese Song and Dance Ensemble in the General Political Department of the People’s Liberation Army, and ranked first class in the civil service with the military rank of major general; she is the wife of the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The daughter of an opera singer, she gained popularity as a soprano from her regular appearances on the annual CCTV New Year’s Gala, and has won many honours in singing competitions nationwide. She was the first in China to obtain a Master’s degree in traditional ethnic music. Since 2011 she has also been World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
The Philharmonia Orchestra has appointed two principal guest conductors, Santtu-Matias Rouvali and Jakub Hrůša.
Rouvali and Hrůša take up their roles at the beginning of the 2017/18 Season. Both artists will conduct several concerts a year – and contribute to the programming for the orchestra’s major series.
Santtu-Matias Rouvali (31) has conducted the Philharmonia in concerts across its UK residencies. In his début with the Philharmonia at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in January 2016, Rouvali conducted Sibelius’s Second Symphony.
Rouvali is also chief conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic, and takes up the position of chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony from the 2017/18 season. With the Gothenburg orchestra he will perform at the Lahti Sibelius Festival in 2017.
Rouvali describes the Philharmonia as ‘a perfectly-shaped orchestra. Its players can pick up any music, are always prepared and technically very skilful. There are so few orchestras around the world who can get close to that. Now I can conduct them: what more could I wish for?’
Rouvali conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in a sold-out Sunday matinee on Sunday 23 April 2017, performing Holst’s Planets and Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Alban Gerhardt as soloist.
Two further works by Sibelius have been issued in new editions by the publisher Fennica Gehrman.
The edition of the Overture in F minor for brass septet is based on the composer’s manuscripts at the National Library of Finland, and makes the work available for the first time in its original instrumentation. The overture dates from the summer of 1889 and was composed for the brass septet directed by Christian Haupt in Lovisa. Score and parts: ISBN-13: 9790550113039. Price: € 55.30 Click here to order.
Also released is an orchestral arrangement by Ernest Pingoud of the well-known Op. 75 piano pieces, ‘The Trees’. Ernest Pingoud (1887–1942) was a Finnish composer of Alsatian parentage, known for his colourful orchestral scores; he was a pupil of the Anton Rubinstein, Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov at the St Petersburg Conservatory. The five pieces are among the best-known of Sibelius’s piano works and include Granen (The Spruce), an indispensable part of the repertoire of Finnish pianists.
ISBN-13: 9790550113237. Price: € 24.90 Click here to order.
The Chester Philharmonic Orchestra will perform an all-Sibelius concert at Chester Cathedral on Saturday 29 April 2017 at 7.30 pm to mark the centenary this year of Finland’s independence. The orchestra is proud and honoured to be appointed as an official partner by the Finnish Government in the anniversary celebrations. The participation of the acclaimed Dutch violinist Olivia Doflein and the engagement of the Italian Marco Bellasi as conductor reflect the international emphasis of this event.
The Chester Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1884, is one of the premier non-professional orchestras in north-west England. The orchestra has a large playing membership enabling it to perform most pieces within the symphonic repertoire. The orchestra usually gives four or five concerts a year, usually in the magnificent setting of Chester’s ancient Cathedral.
Olivia Doflein (1989), originally from the Netherlands, moved to London in 2009 to study at the Royal College of Music. She has won first prizes at several competitions and has participated in masterclasses with Zakhar Bron, Shlomo Mintz, Gordan Nicolic, Alina Ibragimova and Pavel Vernikov. She made her professional solo débuts in the UK and Germany in the 2014–15 season. She has since performed regularly as a soloist throughout the UK and the Netherlands. She is an enthusiastic chamber musician who has performed at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven, Wigmore Hall and Cadogan Hall.
Prize-winning conductor Marco Bellasi has worked with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Hallé Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra and Ensemble 10/10, the official chamber orchestra of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. He graduated in conducting from the Milan Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in 2007. His conducting début was in Milan with a fully staged production of Puccini’s La Bohème. His repertoire includes symphonic, opera and contemporary music.
Chester Philharmonic Orchestra Marco Bellasi, conductor Olivia Doflein, violin
Chester Cathedral, Saturday 29 April 2017 at 7.30 p.m. Sibelius: Finlandia Sibelius: Violin Concerto Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 Ticket information: click here.
Congratulations to two of Finland’s foremost conductors (and most distinguished Sibelius interpreters), who have been appointed to prestigious new positions.
Sakari Oramo, principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and West Coast Kokkola Opera, has been appointed Professor of Orchestral Training and Orchestral Conducting at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki for the five-year period (2020–24). He succeeds Atso Almila, who will retire when his term expires in 2019. Kaarlo Hildén, Dean of the Sibelius Academy, remarks: ‘We are privileged to have someone like Sakari take over this distinguished professorship.’ For further information click here.
Osmo Vänskä has been appointed as the honorary conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He has been the orchestra’s principal guest conductor since 2014, and from 1993 to 1996 was its chief conductor. Arna Kristín Einarsdóttir, executive director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, commented: ‘It is a true honour for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and a recognition of the work we do that Osmo Vänskä has accepted the title as our Honorary Conductor… He is, without a doubt, one of the most important conductors this orchestra works with. We certainly look forward to making music with Osmo in the future.’ For further information click here.
The choral suite Rakastava was originally composed for tenor and male choir in 1894; this arrangement for soprano, baritone and mixed choir dates from four years later. The first version was composed for a competition organized by the YL choir, in which it won second prize, and the mixed-choir version was made for a volume in the collection Sävelistö. Many years later Sibelius transformed the choral work into a delicate and highly regarded suite for string orchestra, triangle and timpani.
The Five Esquisses were written in 1929 and are Sibelius’s last opus-numbered piano works. In these pieces Sibelius explores a new, bolder harmonic language. The titles of the pieces all allude in some way to nature, though the music contains few specifically pictorial elements. They do not share any thematic material, but are nonetheless closely related in mood and texture.
This week’s free download from Classical-Music.com, the official website of BBC Music Magazine, is the Allegro from Sibelius’s String Quartet in D minor, ‘Voces intimae’. Performed by the Ehnes Quartet, the recording received a four-star review in the February issue of BBC Music Magazine.