Throughout his entire career as a conductor and composer, Esa-Pekka Salonen has always been a champion of new music and new expressions. In his Cello Concerto, in a whirlwind of notes, he literally pushes the soloist towards the boundary of what is possible. In the 17th century, the violin virtuoso and composer Heinrich Biber was at the cutting edge of music, not least with his Battalia à 10, in which he used very unusual techniques and executions for the time. Beethoven’s creative and rhythmically vibrant Symphony no. 7 positively bubbles over with jubilation and inspiration; what could be a better celebration of the former Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival.
When, at the age of 21, he stepped up onto the podium for the first time, in front of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, he considered himself to be a composer who would do a little conducting on the side. Fate chose otherwise, but even though Esa-Pekka Salonen is better known as a conductor, composition is of equal importance to him. He has said that the two sides feed off one another, that his composer’s brain is always engaged. Salonen’s Cello Concerto explores the very meaning of virtuosity, a word associated with lightning-fast nimbleness, advanced rhythms and technical brilliance. But he argues that the quiet, almost motionless moments also require incredible skill; virtuosity is equally about imparting profound meaning to a single note. Salonen has described himself as chronically curious and his concerto has been inspired by a wide variety of sources: elements of chaos theory, meteorology and astronomy are combined with detailed orchestral execution and, in the simple as well the complex movements, virtuoso cello solos.
Another erstwhile trailblazer was Heinrich Biber, an Austrian violinist who, with intrepid curiosity and musical brilliance, wrote some of the most important works in musical history for the instrument. He experimented with retuning the strings of the instrument, polyphonics and very advanced techniques. As early as 1673, in his work Battalia à 10, he used different forms of extended techniques that many today would consider modern, or at least contemporary. As the name implies it is a battle, rendered in music, complete with gunshots, whistling bullets and rhythmic war drums. By preparing the instruments with pieces of paper, playing with the wood side of the bow and plucking hard on the strings, the battlefield materializes before the listening audience. One of the movements takes place in between the fighting when the drunken soldiers sit around, singing a variety of German, Bohemian and Czech folksongs in a cacophony that, if anything, is reminiscent of Charles Ives.
Richard Wagner, frequently associated with mighty and dramatic operas, was an ardent admirer of Beethoven in his teenage years. When, at the age of 14, he heard Beethoven’s exuberant Symphony no. 7 he was allegedly deeply moved, as so many others both before and after, and he later described the symphony as “the Apotheosis of the Dance itself”. On the one hand an uncharacteristic statement, considering the popular image of Wagner as a serious, intellectual and melancholy man, but on the other it is evidence of the music’s irresistible playfulness and joie de vivre. Music writer George Grove wrote about the symphony’s captivating fourth movement that, “the force that reigns throughout this movement is literally prodigious”. The second movement, which in itself has become a popular concert piece and been turned into both folk music and rock versions, was so well received at the première that they performed an encore. Again: what better way to celebrate one of our greatest and most lauded musicians, Esa-Pekka Salonen!
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra serves as a symphony orchestra for the whole of Sweden. Regardless of where you live you can listen to the orchestra’s concerts through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts or on their website, and several concerts are also shown on Swedish Television. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the best and most versatile orchestras in Europe – perhaps even in the world. Every year they perform well-loved works from the classical repertoire as well as new music by exciting contemporary composers such as Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Magnus Lindberg and Unsuk Chin. In addition they perform music from popular films and computer and video games and collaborate with leading jazz, pop and rock artists in a constant endeavour to develop and to break new ground.
Esa-Pekka Salonen is constantly challenging and renewing art music’s role and place in society. He is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Composer in Residence at the New York Philharmonic. In addition, he is an artistic partner to the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, where he will conduct Wagner’s entire suite, Der ring des Nibelungen as well as contributing his own works to the repertoire. Salonen is also behind a groundbreaking app that lets the user explore orchestral music in depth, as well as an advisor to a research project aiming to develop music as medicine. Esa-Pekka Salonen is one of the co-founders of the Baltic Sea Festival and has been on the festival’s artistic committee since its inception.
With a combination of artistic integrity, intensity and elegance, cellist Truls Mørk has played his way to the very top tier of soloists. He performs with the most celebrated orchestras all around the world: Orchestre de Paris, Concertgebouworkestern in Amsterdam, the New York Philharmonic, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo, to mention but a few. Mørk has played in the great solo concertos by Dvořák and Elgar, Britten and Shostakovich, as well as Bach’s and Britten’s collected cello suites. Mørk is also dedicated to new music and has premièred more than 30 works by composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Hafliði Hallgrímsson and Einojuhani Rautavaara.
Concert length: 2 h incl. intermission
FESTIVAL OFFER (Östersjöklippet)
With the Baltic Sea Festival Offer (Östersjöklippet), you get three different levels at a discount – 10, 15 and 20% off the regular fare depending on whether you buy three, four or five different concerts at the same time.