Classical music in the folk tradition
In the service of the noble family of Esterházy in the 18th century, we not only find Joseph Haydn but a large number of skilled musicians, such as folk musicians from various parts of Austria and Hungary. Haydn’s parents were both self-taught and enthusiastic amateur musicians, and the whole family often played and sang together. The concert explores this close relationship between folk music and classical music in several of Haydn’s works. In addition, it presents examples of how Beethoven, Stravinsky and the Swedish-Estonian Mirjam Tally have looked to history – in order to move forward.
At the end of the 1750s, Joseph Haydn entered into the service of a certain Count Morzin as his Kapellmeister, or musical director. That was the end of young Haydn’s industrious but financially precarious existence. Just a few years later, the count himself ended up in financial trouble and sacked his entire team of musicians, including Haydn. However, he quickly gained a similar position with Prince Paul Anton Esterházy. In the service of the court, he encountered both amateurs and professional musicians with a background in folk music. According to some music researchers, Haydn also hired folk musicians for his concerts. Since he grew up with folk music, it was probably not a significant or peculiar thing for him and in much of Haydn’s work, there are traces of or even explicit references to Austrian, Hungarian and also Croatian folk music.
Among Haydn’s many symphonies and piano concertos, Simon Crawford-Phillips, himself a pianist and the current chief conductor of the Västerås Sinfonietta, has selected a series of movements that show the cross-fertilization between classical music and folk music: one movement each from the London Symphony, the Farewell Symphony, Trauer, as well as Symphony no. 4 and Piano Concerto no. 11. This collage is woven together with the help of Emilia Amper, acclaimed and award-winning nyckelharpist and composer, who is experienced playing with and composing for orchestra. Besides, the link between Haydn and nyckelharpa may be stronger than it appears. Paul Anton’s successor, Prince Nikolaus, played the baryton, a stringed instrument that is similar to both the viol and the nyckelharpa and for which Haydn wrote almost 200 compositions.
In 2009, Mirjam Tally wrote Allikas (Spring) in memory of Joseph Haydn, where she dissects the third movement of his 44th symphony and looks at the music as if through a magnifying glass: it is distorted, amplified, changed. Beethoven’s Coriolan ouverture from 1807 is probably referencing Shakespeare’s play about the Roman general Coriolanus rather than Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s tragedy, even if it was written for Collin’s play. Allegedly, Beethoven identified with the image of the lone hero and there is speculation as to whether this is somewhat of a musical self-portrait. Igor Stravinsky was, much to his own surprise, delighted and inspired when ballet director Sergei Diaghilev introduced him to Italian 18th century music. This encounter with baroque music was the origin of the ballet, Pulcinella, and Stravinsky himself described it as “the revelation that led to all my subsequent works. It was a retrospective of course, but also a look in the mirror.”
Västerås Sinfonietta is one of Sweden’s oldest orchestras, with a history that goes back to 1883. Using a combination of tradition and innovation, they perform works by classical masters as well as contemporary composers, both on their own and together with prominent soloists like Malin Broman, Lena Willemark, Jakob Koranyi and Anders Paulsson. Their recording of Mats Larsson Gothe’s Symphony no. 2 was nominated for a Swedish Grammis Award in 2017, and the recording of The Nordan Suite by Ale Möller and Hans Ek won the Best CD category at the Folk and World Music Gala in 2015. Johannes Gustavsson has been the principal guest conductor of the ensemble since 2010.
The chief conductor and artistic director of Västerås Sinfonietta, Simon Crawford-Phillips, is also a piano soloist and chamber musician. He made his debut as a conductor in 2013 with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and has since led ensembles such as the English Chamber Orchestra, Dalasinfoniettan and Musica Vitae. As a pianist, he has played with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Colin Currie and Anne Sofie von Otter, among others. He has performed with the Kungsbacka Piano Trio at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, at the BBC Proms and at international festivals. Crawford-Phillips is a guest lecturer at the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg and at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Born in the province of Småland, Emilia Amper became the Nyckelharpa World Champion in 2010. Her two albums, released under the BIS label as the label’s only folk musician, have been nominated for the Swedish Grammis Awards as well as an American Grammy, and have also received the Norwegian award, Spellemannprisen. Amper’s music has been described by critics as hypnotic and captivating, and she has been praised for her brilliant technique and sensitivity, as well as for her ability to break down the barriers between art music and tradition. Amper has collaborated with ensembles such as Västerås Sinfonietta, Trondheimsolistene, Camerata Nordica as well as with prominent folk musicians like Johan Hedin, Anna Roussel and Anders Löfberg.
From his home in Spinkamåla in Blekinge, singer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Svensson has straddled the globe with his music in ensembles such as Alla fagra, YÖLARiiS and ODE. He has also performed with Musica Vitae, staged much appreciated performances for children and adolescents and is passionate about genre-crossing and intercontinental expressions and constellations. Dan Svensson often plays percussion or sings and is a virtuoso improviser with looper pedals and other electronics.
The sound is essential to all the works of the Estonian composer Mirjam Tally. In a playful and curious fashion, she mixes humour with poetry, in art music as well as film music. In Sweden, she was Composer in Residence at Swedish Radio P2, as well as at Studio Acusticum in Piteå and at Västerås Sinfonietta. She attracted international attention at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris in 2009 for her orchestral work Turbulence, which was also awarded the Estonian Music Days festival’s composer award as well as the Lesser Christ Johnson Prize. Tally’s music has been performed at festivals all over the world and she is a frequent collaborator with many orchestras, soloists and chamber ensembles. Tally also performs with the electro-folk duo, Unejõgi.
– 4th movement, Final: Presto from Symphony no. 44, Trauer
– 3rd movement, Minuet: Allegretto from Symphony no. 45, the Farewell Symphony
– 2nd movement, Andante moderato from Symphony no. 4
– 3rd movement, Rondo all’ungarese from Piano Concerto no. 11
– 4th movement, Spiritoso from Symphony no. 104
Concert length: 2 h incl. intermission
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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.