Shostakovich according to Mäkelä
Rautavaara’s cello concerto, Towards the Horizon, is reminiscent of pompous Hollywood music that has taken a step towards the harsher, more modern art music, a split that is skilfully navigated by the cellist who plays almost continuously throughout the piece. Anton Webern arranged Bach’s brilliant Ricercar à 6 for orchestra to make the music more accessible and comprehensible, two qualities that Shostakovich probably bore in mind when he wrote his Symphony No. 5 as a reaction against political oppression and smearing. And, sure enough, it was a huge success – the symphony remains one of his most popular to this day.
In the autumn of 2017, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra crossed paths with conductor Klaus Mäkelä for the first time, an encounter that was so successful that, in December that same year, he was announced as the orchestra’s first guest conductor, with a three-year contract. This season, on location in Berwaldhallen, Mäkelä will conduct three symphonies by Shostakovich: the fifth, sixth and seventh.
The young conductor is absolutely inundated with requests. He is Artist in Association at the Tapiola Sinfonietta and in 2017, he also debuted as opera conductor at the Finnish National Opera. Mäkelä has also been appointed Esa-Pekka Salonen’s assistant for the work on the National Opera’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. In addition, he has been selected as the new artistic director of the Turku Music Festival and will be planning the programme for the summer of 2019, which is the festival’s 60th anniversary. A record start for a conductor born in 1996.
Anton Webern studied music in Vienna and wrote his thesis on renaissance conductor Heinrich Isaac. Later, Webern was intrigued by Arnold Schoenberg and his twelve-tone technique. To earn a livelihood, Webern conducted, composed and taught, as well as working at the Universal Edition publishing house. In a letter to conductor Hermann Scherchen, Webern wrote about his adaptation of Bach’s Ricercar: ”My instrumentation aims to reveal the motivic coherence… What music it is! Truly, it is not worthwhile to awaken this music, which lies asleep in the seclusion of Bach’s own abstract presentation…”
Einojuhani Rautavaara wrote his Cello Concerto No. 2, dedicating it to Truls Mørk. The concerto is quite short, around 20 minutes, and written in a movement that is divided into three parts. The title, Towards the Horizon, is more a feeling than a programme commentary. Rautavaara himself has said that with this concerto he has composed twelve overall, and that this one may also be his final one. This neo-classical work presents the cello in a more or less unbroken melody that is varied against the orchestral movements. Towards the end of the concerto, the orchestra becomes more brutal but lets the cello end on a lyrical note, a figure rising towards the horizon.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 from 1937 was to be a turning-point in his life. The year before, the state-owned newspaper Pravda published an article with the header, ”Chaos instead of music”. That was to be the start of a veritable witch-hunt for Shostakovich, who feared for his life. For that reason, he withdrew his already composed Fourth Symphony and instead, presented the Fifth with the comment, ”an artist’s response to just criticism”.
Text: Evabritt Selén
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.
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.