H C Andersen’s beloved story The Little Mermaid is musically and imaginatively interpreted by Alexander Zemlinsky. World-famous cellist Truls Mørk will visit Berwaldhallen several times this season, but this will be the first, where he’ll perform Ernest Bloch’s beautiful, Hebrew rhapsody, Schelomo. The ocean theme is completed by Debussy’s billowing La Mer.
Composer, educator and conductor Alexander Zemlinsky is perhaps best known posthumously as Schönberg’s and Korngold’s teacher, but in recent decades his music has experienced a renaissance, not least regarding his Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) based on H.C. Andersen’ story. Zemlinsky initially called his work a symphonic poem, but abandoned the idea of a clear narrative and at the première in 1905, the work was given the title “Fantasy for Orchestra”. In The Mermaid, Zemlinsky created delectable, colourful and atmospheric music, and it is not difficult to understand why the piece is now played regularly in concert halls around the world.
Klaus Mäkelä has been the first guest conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since the autumn of 2018. However, he began his career as a cellist and the cello plays a leading role in this concert, where one of the world’s leading cellists, Truls Mørk, performs Ernest Bloch’s Hebrew rhapsody, Schelomo. The origin of the work dates from the beginning of the First World War when Bloch, who was of Jewish origin, in his desperation at humanity’s wickedness turned to Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. He started to outline a work for voice and orchestra but realized that the languages in which he was proficient did not suit what he wanted to express. Then he heard the cellist Aleksandr Barjanskij at a concert and realized that here was the “voice” he had been searching for: that of the cello. Bloch named the work Schelomo, the Hebrew name for the King of Israel, Solomon, who according to legend wrote Ecclesiastes.
Claude Debussy did not grow up by the sea, but in a Paris suburb, however his memories of childhood summers spent on the French south coast were extremely vivid to him even as an adult, and his love of the sea persisted throughout his entire life. “Symphonic sketches”, as he called La Mer, premièred in 1905, the same year as Zemlinsky’s The Mermaid. Debussy uses the orchestra in an innovative way with unusual instrument combinations, and he creates distinctive melodic figures and a shimmering, sonorous abundance of sound gaining inspiration from Javanese music, amongst other things. One of the first people to write a biography of Debussy, music researcher Edward Lockspeiser, aptly commented about La Mer that “we are moving from the 19th century to the 20th century in this music”. Many argue that Debussy’s composition, along with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, should be considered one of the seminal works of musical modernism.
Text: Axel Lindhe
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is known worldwide as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with an exciting and varied repertoire and a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s high-quality music making as well as its collaborations with internationally renowned composers, conductors and soloists have been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades.
Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the seated audience, the orchestra 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 and in Swedish Television, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top orchestras.
“The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!” The orchestra is also proud to have Klaus Mäkelä as its Principal Guest Conductor since 2018.
The first radio orchestra was founded in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967. Through the years, the orchestra has had several distinguished Music Directors. Two of them, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen, have since been appointed Conductors Laureate, as well as Valery Gergiev, a regular guest conductor and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival.
Klaus Mäkelä is Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since the 2018–2019 season. He is Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Artistic Advisor of the Orchestre de Paris. He is also Artist in Association of the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival.
In addition to his first season with the Oslo Philharmonic, the 2020–2021 season sees Mäkelä debut with for example the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He also returns to the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Gothenburg Symphony and Helsinki Philharmonic, and conducts two programmes with the Orchestre de Paris. He conducts premieres by Unsuk Chin, Sauli Zinovjev and Mette Henriette.
Mäkelä studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy with Jorma Panula, and cello with Marko Ylönen, Timo Hanhinen and Hannu Kiiski. As a soloist, he has performed with several Finnish orchestras, as a chamber musician with the musicians of Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and at many Finnish festivals. He plays a Giovanni Grancino cello from 1698, kindly made available by the OP Art Foundation. In 2019, he was awarded the Finland Prize for his contributions to Finnish art and culture.
With a combination of artistic integrity, intensity and elegance, the cellist Truls Mørk has played his way to the very top as a soloist. He performs with the foremost orchestras around the world and has recently performed with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, Orchestre de Paris and Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, to mention but a few. Mørk has recorded the great solo concerts of Dvořák and Elgar, as well as Britten and Shostakovich, and also the collective Cello Suites of both Bach and Britten. He has also begun touring with the pianist Behzod Abduraimov. Mørk is dedicated to contemporary music and has performed more than 30 works, such as Krzysztof Penderecki’s Concerto for Three Cellos, Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s Cello Concerto and Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Towards the Horizon.