The Radio Choir’s chief conductor leads a concert with music traversing the countries of the Baltic Sea
The star violinist visits the choir with Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending
THE RADIO CHOIR
Meet the Radio Choir in captivating choral pieces and a world premiere by Jan Sandström
The Baltic Seasons
The Swedish Radio Choir
More about the Swedish Radio Choir
Hanaholmen – a cultural centre for Finland and Sweden
THE BALTIC SEASONS / NEW START FOR CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION
Thursday, 16 September. Led by Music Director Kaspars Putniņš, the Swedish Radio Choir invites you on a musical journey across the countries of the Baltic Sea. We visit Polar Music Prize recipient Kaija Saariaho’s electro-poetic universe, Pēteris Vasks’ captivating tonal landscapes, and witness a world premiere of a new piece by Swedish composer Jan Sandström. The theme running through the concert is the powerful interplay of the seasons, and the cyclical side of the human condition. Star violinist Johan Dalene also makes an appearance at the concert. In today’s talk from Hanaholmen in Helsinki, the Swedish journalist Erik Blix talks to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto upon the theme of rebirth. All festival talks are shown on screen in Berwaldhallen and can also be experienced on Berwaldhallen Play.
BALTIC SEA STUDIO SEP 16 - DIGITAL BROADCAST
Tonight’s guests in the Baltic Sea studio are America Vera-Zavala, playwright/director, Thomas Andrén, associate professor of marine Quaternary geology, Maria Wolrath-Söderberg, associate professor of rhetoric. Today’s host is Malin Jacobson-Båth. The broadcast is in English and starts at 17.45 CET.
New start for cross-border cooperationBerwaldhallen
In today’s talk from Hanaholmen in Helsinki, the Swedish journalist Erik Blix talks to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto upon the theme of rebirth. The discussion revolves around Swedish-Finnish and Nordic co-operation, the Baltic Sea, Afghanistan and the post-corona period.
Pekka Haavisto, Finland´s Minister for Foreign Affairs
Pekka Haavisto (FIN)
Finland´s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto has been a member of the Finnish Parliament from 1987-1995 and from 2007 onwards. Haavisto was the first green minister in Europe when he served as a Minister for Environment and Development from 1995 to 1999. He has also recently served as a Minister for Development and State Ownership (2013-2014). Pekka Haavisto has acted as the Chairperson of the Finnish Greens (1993-1995) and as the Chairperson of the European Green Party (2000-2006). In 2014 he was appointed as the Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for African Crises. Before that he has worked as the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) in Sudan and Darfur (2005-2007), and as a Special Advisor to the UN (ASG) in the Darfur peace process (2007). He has also led several missions to conflict areas as the Chairman of UNEP’s post-conflict work in 1999-2005.
Erik Blix, moderator and host in Swedish Radio
Erik Blix (SE) has many years as a journalist and programme host on Swedish Radio behind him, and is frequently engaged as a moderator and conversation leader. Every Sunday, he presents satirical programme Public Service in P1’s weekly magazine Good Morning, World. Blix also hosts P4 Extra Sunday.
All talks in English
THE BALTIC SEASONSBerwaldhallen
Using this year’s festival theme, rebirth, as a starting point, the Swedish Radio Choir invites you on a musical journey through the varied map of the Baltic Sea region. Led by our Latvian Music Director Kaspars Putniņš, we visit Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s electro-poetic universe, Latvian festival favourite Pēteris Vasks’ captivating tonal landscape – and witness the world premiere of a new choral piece by Swede Jan Sandström. The theme running through the concert is the powerful interplay of the seasons, and the cyclical side of the human condition. Star violinist Johan Dalene also makes an appearance alongside the choir.Read more
Kaspars Putniņš’ first concert at the Baltic Sea Festival as the Swedish Radio Choir’s Chief Conductor has been named The Baltic Seasons. Seasons, as well as cyclical changes throughout life, form the tonal foundation as the Swedish Radio Choir and star violinist Johan Dalene meet Putniņš.
‘The cycles of nature, big and small, are one of the great wonders of the world,’ says Putniņš. ‘Here in the Nordic countries, the changes of the seasons are so clear, and so beautiful. The frozen lake, how everything comes to life in spring, and the intense greenery of high summer. It’s like breaths, the circle of life. I also think that the strange and dark time of the pandemic is part of a circular movement. This concert is about different aspects of change.’
To Kaija Saariaho, German poet Friedrich Hölderlin’s texts have a special meaning. The poems in her piece Tag des Jahrs dive into the strong colours of the seasons, and follow their ever-changing characters. But what Saariaho returns to is how the texts are dated. They are all signed with a made-up name, Scardanelli, and dated several years before Hölderlin was born. Saariaho, whose mother lost her sense of time and space due to a stroke, asks if Hölderlin might have experienced something similar. The harmonies of the choir are embraced by electronic sounds, a human voice, and distant birds in Hölderlin’s landscape.
In April, Latvia celebrated the great composer Pēteris Vasks, who turned 75. He was born in the small town of Aizpute, which is two hours straight west from Kaspars Putniņš’ Riga, and one day of sailing from Gotland, if the winds are willing. In Three Poems by Czesław Miłosz, Vasks finds an individual who is enveloped in the cyclical nature of the world and of life: in circles of joy and grief, conflict and clarity. Kaspars Putniņš sees rebirth in the piece:
‘The loneliness we have experienced over the past year is a great challenge for us as individuals. But I think that being allowed to exist in the normal, social flow without being forced to focus on oneself can be a deliverance. If we take this seriously, it can mean something new for our civilisation. Spring is inexorable – it comes every year, no matter how hard the winter has been,’ says Putniņš.
The Swedish Radio Choir
For more than 90 years, the Swedish Radio Choir has contributed to the development of the Swedish a cappella tradition. Under the leadership of legendary conductor Eric Ericson, the choir earned great international renown. It is still hailed as one of the best choirs in the world. The choir members’ ability to switch between powerful solo performances and seamlessly integrating themselves in the ensemble creates a unique and dynamic instrument praised by critics and music lovers alike, as well as by the many guest conductors who explore and challenge the choir’s possibilities.
Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Choir since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the seated audience, the choir reaches millions of listeners on the radio and the web through Klassiska konserten i P2. Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top choirs.
With the 2020–2021 season, Kaspars Putniņš begins his tenure as the tenth Music Director of the Swedish Radio Choir. Since January 2019, Marc Korovitch is the choirmaster of the Swedish Radio Choir with responsibility for the ensemble’s continued artistic development. Two of the orchestra’s former Music Directors, Tõnu Kaljuste and Peter Dijkstra, were appointed Conductors Laureate in November 2019. Both maintain a close relationship with the choir and make regular guest appearances.
The Swedish Radio Choir was founded the same year as the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and the choir had its first concert in May 1925. Right from the start, the choir had high ambitions with a conscious aim to perform contemporary music.
Kaspar Putniņš, music director
Acclaimed Latvian conductor Kaspars Putniņš is the Swedish Radio Choir’s new Chief Conductor from the 2020–2021 season. He is also Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and has been permanent conductor of the Latvian Radio Choir since 1994. Putniņš is an experienced interpreter of polyphonic Renaissance works as well as the swelling emotions of the Romantic era, but his foremost goal has always been to promote new and outstanding choral music. Through close relationships with a number of Nordic and Baltic composers, he has contributed to raising the bar for performances and recordings of new choral works.
As a guest conductor, he appears with ensembles such as the RIAS Kammerchor, NDR Radio Choir Hamburg, Danish National Vocal Ensemble, BBC Singers, Tokyo Cantat and the Netherlands Radio Choir. He has collaborated with composers such as Maija Einfelde, Mārtiņš Viļums, Toivo Tulev, Lasse Thoresen and Gavin Bryars as well as initiated several drama projects in collaboration with visual and theatre artists. He has made acclaimed album recordings, such as works by Schnittke and Pärt with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir on an album that was awarded both a Gramophone Award and Diapason d’Or.
Johan Dalene, violin
Violinist Johan Dalene has already made a big impression on the international stage. He performs regularly with leading orchestras and in famous concert halls, both abroad and in Sweden. He won the Norwegian Soloist Prize and the prestigious Carl Nielsen International Competition in 2019. Future seasons include soloist performances with most of the big Scandinavian orchestras, as well as his debut with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig with Sakari Orami, the Czech Philharmonic with Franz Welser-Möst, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin with Christoph Eschenbach, and recitals in Wigmore Hall, London, and Carnegie Hall, New York.
In April 2020, when public concerts were cancelled due to the Corona pandemic, Johan performed Bach’s concerto for two violins with Janine Jansen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in a broadcast concert. During the 2020/2021 season, Johan was the appointed Classical Artist in Swedish Radio’s P2 and is also named a Rising Star by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO). During this period, he will also perform recitals in many of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, such as Musikverein in Vienna, Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, L’Auditori in Barcelona, Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, and Cité de la Musique in Paris. Johan was a New Generation Artist on BBC Radio 3 during the 2019 – 2021 season, mainly performing at recitals, chamber music concerts, and as a soloist with all the BBC orchestras.
KAIJA SAARIAHO: Tag des Jahrs
Following studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho sought out the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM) in Paris in the 1980s, where she immersed herself in electroacoustic music and French spectral music. Her early pieces are based on interplay between orchestra and taped electronics, and often consist of dense masses of sound going through slow changes.
Saariaho has transferred the same viewpoint to vocal music. Her opera L’Amour de loin, directed by Peter Sellars, was highly celebrated when it premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2000. In 2001 Saariaho wrote Tag des Jahrs for choir and electronics, a piece based on four poems by Friedrich Hölderlin.. . In a programme note Saariaho writes as follows:
‘I have been familiar with the late poems of Hölderlin for some time now and used some of them for several little pieces. The idea for Tag des Jahrs for choir came to me a few years ago when someone very dear to me suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and communication with her acquired a new logic (or lack thereof), as she no longer had any sense of time or place. I do not know what had happened to Hölderlin, for he signed huis poems under different dates, decade, even centuries from the time in which he lived, and under the name of Scardanelli. I nevertheless acquired a new insight into his poems as visions of lived moments that pass in the twinkling of an eye and then vanish or transform into new, intensive moments. Our minds are full of such clear, sensuous moments, and they in fact make up our own experience of the life we live.’
Like in many other pieces, Saariaho has used nature as the starting point for her composition: ‘I wanted to expand the sound world in the direction of nature that is so present in these poems. Hence the material consisting not only of taped human voice but also of birds, the wind and other nature sounds.’
Tag des Jahrs is dedicated to Kaija Saariaho’s mother.
JAN SANDSTRÖM: The Great Enigma, Première
Many will know Jan Sandström as the creator of The Motorbike Concerto, the trombone concerto in which the soloist makes a magnificent entrance on an actual motorbike. The choral singers who have sung his calm, almost meditative reworking of Praetorius’ Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming, which rarely leaves the Christmas concert audience unmoved, are also numerous.
When the Radio Choir’s conductor Kaspars Putninš called Sandström concerning a commission for the Baltic Sea Festival, Putninš requested a celebration of the nature that unites the countries around the Baltic Sea; the sea, the landscapes, and the unique seasonal changes. Sandström started looking for suitable texts, and found Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry, which had the same content as the music Sandström most enjoys expressing himself in; simplicity and artful tonal changes that speak of parallel realities. The result is The Great Enigma, which is based on six poems from Suite No. 11 from Tranströmer’s series of haiku poems.
Sandström says: “Despite every poem containing a whole experience in itself, it feels as if the poems are connected, having a common direction or core. The Sea, God’s Wind at My Back, and The Apple Trees play important roles. Everything leads to the phrase The Great Enigma, which also became the name of the whole choral piece.”
Det gamla äppelträdet.
Havet är nära.
Havet är en mur.
Jag hör måsarna skrika –
de vinkar åt oss.
Guds vind i ryggen.
Skottet som kommer ljudlöst –
en alltför lång dröm.
Den blå jätten går förbi.
Kall bris från havet.
Stor och långsam vind
från havets bibliotek.
Här får jag vila.
Den stora gåtan.
The deep-rooted apple tree.
The sea is near by.
The sea is a wall.
I hear the sea gulls crying –
they’re waving at us.
God’s wind behind me.
The shot comes without a sound –
an all too long dream.
The blue giant passes by.
Cold breeze from the sea.
A wind, vast and slow
from the ocean’s library.
Here I will find peace.
Birds with human traits.
Apple trees were blossoming.
The great enigma.
Translation from Swedish: Anna Linden
BRITTA BYSTRÖM: To everything there is a season
’To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven.’
These are the first lines in the Bibel verse which I have used for my composition. It is a very poetical text, from Ecclesiastes 3, in which the repetitive words ’a time to…’ forms a sort of refrain that creates a musical form in itself. There is no obvious message in this Bible Verse, but in a few, sparse lines, the whole diversity and richness of human life is uncovered. When I set music to it, I also thought about it as an image of music itself: a space where all doors are open, where everything has a place.
Female choir and violin: what an attractive combination of lines in high register! In my piece, you can hear the violin sail freely above the singers, like a kite to which the choir hold the line. At other times, the violin joins the choir, as one voice among the others.
’To every thing there is a season’ is about nine minutes in lenght and is dedicated to The Netherlands Female Youth Choir and Janine Jansen.
PETERIS VASKS: Three Poems by Czeslaw Milosz
Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks’ music is characterised by effusion, and revolves around global and timeless issues. Birth and death, hatred and forgiveness, harmony and dissonance are recurring themes in his work, in differing ways. Hope and belief in the final victory of good over evil is a running theme throughout his compositions.
‘Music is the most powerful of art forms, as it most easily reaches the divine. Music is an abstraction, but sound has the ability to reach the soul and express something that can’t be said in words’, he has said.
Vasks’ atmospheric choral pieces oscillate between dramatic passion and harmonic stillness. Three Poems consists of three choral pieces with lyrics by Polish-American poet Czesław Miłosz, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Vasks lies acquiescently down next to Miłosz’ words with exacting harmonies and complex rhythms that realize? the varying ambiences of the poems.
In Window, the imperceptible transformations of an apple tree changing from sapling to mature fruit tree are depicted contemplatively and dreamily. So Little describes how man is torn between hope and glimmering despair with a haunting polyphony, while a light and hopeful spirit characterises the memory of an interaction with a hare in Encounter.
In Three Poems, Vasks confirms his belief that ‘harmony is possible, at least in music’. The original performance of the piece was given by the Hilliard Ensemble in 1994.
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Lark Ascending for violin and mixed choir
He was England’s big symphonist, Ralph Vaughan Williams, with no less than nine symphonies in his catalogue. But his oeuvre also includes opera, ballet, chamber and choral music, created during a period of 60 years. A composer with a belief in making music as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, and whose musical moods stretch from calm to stormy, and from enigmatic to effervescent.
Thanks to his interest in, and influence from, English Renaissance music, and not least folk music, Vaughan Williams created something of a break in the trend of English art music, which had a strong German influence at the time. It took time for him to remove himself from the German heritage, but studies with composer Maurice Ravel helped him find his own voice.
To us, his hyper-romantic, pastoral romance for violin and orchestra, The Lark Ascending, is likely one of his most famous pieces. Originally, The Lark Ascending is a poem of 122 lines of verse by English Victorian poet George Meredith, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature many times. The poem inspired Vaughan Williams to write music with the same title, music that has become significantly better known than Meredith’s poetry, and that combines two of Vaughan Williams’ big passions: poetry and the violin.
The original version from 1914 was thus written for violin and piano, but was orchestrated six years later by the composer, becoming the most played version by far. Here, a further reworking is presented, now for violin and choir, commissioned by the Swedish Chamber Choir and its conductor Simon Phipps. The choir takes over the orchestra’s accompaniment, and also sings George Meredith’s lyrics.
Concert length: 1 hour 15 minutes (no intermission)