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.
A special double concert at Brighton Unitarian Church. First comes a lunchtime piano recital by the Finnish pianist Folke Gräsbeck. In the second concert we hear the Sibelius One Chamber Ensemble, and also Folke Gräsbeck both as a solo performer and in duo. This concert will include three UK premières.
Programmes have been announced for the two piano concerts in this year’s International Sibelius Festival in Lahti.
Folke Gräsbeck / Tuesday 1st September / 4.30 pm / Kalevi Aho Hall
[Aubade] in A flat major, JS 46
Largo in A major, JS 117 (Kesälahti version)
Andantino in D major ‘Till Emma Kristina Marie-Louise Berndtson. Lulu’
Lento in E major, JS 119
[Polka] ‘Aino’ in C minor
Adagio in E major, JS 13
Thirteen Pieces, Op. 76
Souvenir, Op. 99/3
Moment de valse, Op. 99/7
Five Romantic Compositions, Op. 101
Morceau romantique sur un motif de M. Jacob de Julin, JS 135b
Landscape II (1928–29)
Paavali Jumppanen / Thursday 3rd September / 3 pm / Kalevi Aho Hall
Kyllikki, Op. 41
Five Pieces ‘The Flowers’, Op. 85
Sonatina No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 67/1
Five Characteristic Impressions, Op. 103
Sonatina No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 67/3
A Sibelius Festival is being arranged in ‘Golfo del Tigullio’ (Liguria, Italy), in October 2015.
The festival celebrates the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’s birth and is organized in collaboration with the Amministrazioni Comunali of Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure and Recco, and supported by the Embassy of Finland in Rome.
Sibelius and his family visited Rapallo in early 1901, and while there he worked on his Second Symphony.
A CD of Sibelius’s works for violin and piano and songs has been recorded at his home, Ainola, using the composer’s own violin and his own Steinway piano.
The recording features Satu Jalas (Sibelius’s granddaughter), violin, Lilli Paasikivi, soprano, and Folke Gräsbeck, piano.
The programme features a generous selection of Sibelius’s most popular works in these genres including the Romance in F major and Rondino for violin and piano, and songs such as Våren flyktar hastigt, Svarta rosor and Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte.
The CD will be released by the Ainola Foundation in June 2015. Further information will be published later.
Folke Gråsbeck has also recently recorded a Sibelius solo piano CD on the Ainola Steinway for BIS Records (BIS-2132).
At Villa Gyllenberg in Helsinki – one of Finland’s foremost private museums – on 15th December 2014 the pianist Folke Gräsbeck was awarded the Sibelius Medal of the Sibelius Society of Finland, presented by Lauri Tarasti, president of the society since 2009. This medal has been awarded since 1965 and was designed by Eila Hiltunen, who also created the Sibelius monument. The medal is awarded both to individuals and organizations for their outstanding achievements as performers or supporters of Sibelius’s music, as well as to researchers. Previous recipients have included Urho Kekkonen (President of Finland), Aino Sibelius, Herbert von Karajan and many of Finland’s foremost conductors. In 2010 the medal was awarded to Sibelius One’s Andrew Barnett.
Folke Gräsbeck is the foremost exponent of Sibelius’s music for and including the piano. The American magazine Fanfare wrote of his recordings: ‘Gräsbeck makes a most persuasive case for just about all of this music, and Sibelius’s output for solo piano will likely never again be recorded as comprehensively or as well.’
The medal was presented at an event to mark the launch of the new critical edition of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in Breitkopf & Härtel’s JSW series. The new volume (SON 622) is edited by Timo Virtanen, editor-in-chief of JSW, includes not only the familiar 1905 version of the concerto but also the original 1903/04 version, with detailed comments both in the preface and the critical report. The launch event included a performance of the revised version of the concerto in Sibelius’s own arrangement for violin and piano, performed by Petteri Iivonen – second prize winner in the 2010 International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition and Folke Gräsbeck. After receiving the medal Folke Gräsbeck played a piano solo rarity, the Largo in A major, JS 117 (1888).
A new recording made on Sibelius’s own piano at Ainola will be released by BIS Records in early 2015, marking both the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the piano itself. The Steinway instrument heard on this recording arrived at Ainola in 1915, as a gift paid for by 144 of Sibelius’s grateful supporters on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday.
Performed by Folke Gräsbeck, the programme contains a wide-ranging selection of Sibelius’s piano music, familiar and unfamiliar, including also some of the composer’s own piano transcriptions of his orchestral music. Folke Gräsbeck’s credentials as a Sibelius interpreter are second to none: he participates on 24 discs in the complete Sibelius Edition project for BIS Records including the complete solo piano music (10 CDs) and discs of songs, works with solo instruments and with choir. He also gave the first piano recital at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti in 2000, with a programme consisting exclusively of Sibelius piano music premières. His repertoire also includes Sibelius’s Piano Quintet, four piano quartets and five piano trios. Gräsbeck has performed 397 out of Sibelius’s total of approx. 600 works, plus fragments, and has given the first performances of 90 of them. This new recording was made in May 2014.