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Jean Sibelius

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

Yesterday

Maestro move: Sakari Oramo takes over at Sibelius Academy

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discMessage from Vesa Siren: Congratulations to Sibelius Academy and Sakari Oramo, their next professor of conducting from 2020. This is the famous chair of Jorma Panula, Eri Klas, Leif Segerstam and now Atso Almila, who retires in 2019. Oramo, son of two Sibelius Academy professors, will probably have to give up one of his orchestras – BBC Symphony, Stockholm Phil, Ostrobotnian Chamber Orchestra) – but “I will follow the situation and there is no hurry”, he just said to me. He will continue in London at least until summer 2020 and in Stockholm at least until 2021. Much more on Oramo (pages 773-800) and on Finnish conducting from Kajanus and Sibelius to Santtu-Matias Rouvali and Klaus Mäkelä auf Deutsch in (my book) Finnlands Dirigenten , published next Friday in Berlin. portrait: Norman Perryman Official announcement: Conductor Sakari Oramo has been invited to become Professor of Orchestral Training and Orchestral Conducting at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki for the five-year period 1 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2024. He succeeds Professor Atso Almila, who will retire when his term expires in 2019. Sakari Oramo (b. 1965) is one of the world’s most sought-after and distinguished conductors. He is currently Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also Principal Conductor of the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and the West Coast Kokkola Opera. Oramo studied with Jorma Panula in the Sibelius Academy conducting class and graduated in 1992. He also participated in masterclasses given by Ilya Musin and Atso Almila. Before his conducting studies, he studied the violin at the Sibelius Academy and the Utrecht Conservatory in the Netherlands. He was once leader of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and a founding member of the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra and continues to perform extensively as a chamber musician and soloist.

My Classical Notes

March 19

Violinist Nathan Meltzer

A new name emerged into my music world today, and his name is Nathan Meltzer. How, you ask? I read about the first place award given at a music competition in Britain. And I know how excellent the teaching of music is at British schools, so I did more research. All I can say is Wow! This is a 16 year old young man, and I located a recording of his, as he performs the violin concerto by Jean Sibelius. Here it is for your enjoyment: Oh, yes… here is another detail: Nathan is a student of Yitzhak Perlman…






Classical iconoclast

March 4

Siren Call - Oramo, Sibelius Nielsen Glanert

Sinister mysteries of the sea and malevolence ! Sakari Oramo and the BBC SO in a superlative programme : Sibelius Lemminkäinen Suite, Op.22, with Carl Nielsen An Imaginary Journey to the Faroe Islands and Detlev Glanert's Megaris. inspired by ancient legend.   An atmospheric concer so rewarding that it deserves  repeat listening - atch it HERE on BBC Radio 3. This was the UK premiere of Glanert's Megaris : Seestück mit Klage der toten Sirene (2014-15)  It's a fascinating piece that takes as a starting point the legend that Partenope, the siren, washed up dead on the rocks at Megaris, once an island off the coast of Sicily, now part of the conurbation.  Sirens don't exist, except in myth, but are powerful symbols. They're also pagan. Yet Partenope's relics are supposedly buried in a church on the fortress of Castel dell'Ovo on rocks which jut onto the sea.  Contradictions ! Thus layers of myth and meaning, which Glanert incorporates into the complex, shifting textures of his music. Megaris is elusive, but seductive, like the sirens whose songs drove mortals to their deaths. Partenope died because she failed in her mission, : Odysseus escaped by blocking his ears.  Partenope's death is romantic and a lure for tourists. But bodies still wash up on shores all over the Mediterranean. Do we listen to their voices ?   Far too often, audiences block out new music on principle, lest they be seduced and change, but Glanert's Megaris is compelling.   From offstage, hidden singers  (the BBC Singers) intone strange harmonies. the lines long, keening, stretching out into space. The orchestra responds. Timpani are beaten in solemn progression, high winds cry plaintively, flying over massed strings and massed choral voices, singing a wordless chorus of vowel sounds.  The pace quickens and the orchestra breaks into a flurry of dissonances, the percussion adding menace, the strings whipped into frenzy. Yet the voices won't be silenced, singing short, sharp sounds, as if imitating the orchestral passage that went before. A strange stillness descends. the voices hum as do the strings:  haunting, seamless abstract sound from which the voices materialize. led by the sopranos.  A subtle interplay of tonal colour. The voices then rise, singing short, urgent phrases and the orchestra flies back to life with complex cross currents. O-A-O-E,, the voice sing, urgently. Another violent tutti, ending with a crash of cymbals before a mysterious stillness descends : silvery, circulating sounds lit by brass, the voices now whispering surreal chant.  The crash of a gong: then a solo soprano, calling wordlessly into the void.  Atmospheric, magical, beautiful, yet also unsettling.  Lots more on Glanert on this site, please explore.  The four legends in Sibelius Lemminkäinen Suite describe the adventures of Lemminkäinen in the epic saga of the Kalevala. Oramo's approach was fresh and lively, suggesting the young hero's erotic vigour. The Kalevala isn't prissy !  This highlighted the contrast between the hero and the Swan of  Tounela, the mysterious symbol of the Island of the Dead.  Unlike other birds, a swan does not sing until it dies, so killing the swan implies some mystical rite. Lemminkäinen, like Parsifal, thinks he can kill a swan, but in the process is killed himself and brought back to life.  The Lemminkäinen Suite is much more than programme music.  The swan's "voice" is the cor anglais, solemn, mournful and seductive, perhaps not so different from a siren.  Beautiful playing from the BBC SO's soloist.  In the final section, Lemminkäinen's Return, Oramo brought out depth of meaning. The hero is restored, but he's strong because he's learned along the way.  Oramo is emerging as a major interpreter of Carl Nielsen, having conducted a lot of Nielsen with the BBC SO in recent years. This performance of Nielsen's  An Imaginary Journey to the Faroe Islands (1927) was authoritative, and very individual.  The five sections in this piece form an arc, tone poem as miniature symphony, in a way. Oramo accentuated the contrast between movements which gives the piece such élan. The lugubrious undercurrents in the first section speed up as land approaches, quirky little flourishes from the winds suggesting sea birds on the coast.  This music has the feel of the seas, the orchestra surging as if propelled by powerful waves. Can we hear inn the dances echoes of hardy Lutheran chorale ? Nielsen had a wry sense of humour, as does Oramo. Perhaps that's why they suit each other so well.  Bracing stuff !

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

March 3

The trouble with nose hair

A dispatch from our quartet diarist, Anthea Kreston: I am on my way to Paris – I nipped home for 17 hours between our two concerts in Vienna and today’s concert in Paris. I have exciting news. I fell in love, a little, two times this week! Once with Anna Vinnitskaya, our diminutive and effervescent partner on the Schumann Piano Quintet, and again with my NEW VIOLIN, loaned to me in Vienna – a Testore from 1710. What a week. Our travel and performance schedule has been brutal – I feel like I have constant jet-lag – my eating, sleeping and travel inconsistencies are putting my through the ringer. Between the hyper-concentration and pressure of these concerts (Munich, Berlin, Vienna, London, Brussels and Paris, all sold out or nearly sold out), late evenings with super-fans and presenters, early mornings to the next destination, direct to the halls for rehearsal and concert – how can I eat normally, sleep decently? Our flight to London had severe turbulence, and I barely made it, bag in hand – only to be stuck for over an hour in stop and go traffic in the taxi. I was actually green – before I made a mad dash for the door and decided to just walk in the “fresh London air” for an hour to our hotel. I still haven’t recovered fully – feeling nauseous and sleep-crazy (reminds me of the feeling of taking care of a one month old baby- a series of cat-naps and quick, strange snacks). An incredible thing happened – as I was taking off from the airport, coming home between concerts, a message came in from Andy Armstrong – our beloved former pianist from the Amelia Trio. His flight was delayed, and he was in a 3 hour layover in Berlin on his way to a concerto appearance in Sophia, Bulgaria. We met for a coffee – and Jason drove to the airport to hang out also. What a reunion! I miss our silliness, our ease – our love of the ridiculous. We have a running gag of who can trick the other one so we can pay any bill – or distract someone and start a movement while they are looking the wrong direction. Andy got me this time, and I quickly tackled him and got him in a headlock – we wrestled in line at the coffee place, much to the confusion of the clerk, and were wiping the tears away as jason came running up the terminal hallway to see us. What joy! To think, it has only been one year – catching up, talking about the big life issues and triumphs (Andy has a baby on the way) – to talk all together – we know each other so well. Catharsis. Anna Vinnitskaya is a pleasure to be around, and to share a stage with her is a perfect balance of high-powered performance and constant surprise. Every evening, new nuances delighted me – this is the way that I also conceive of Schumann – understand the complexity, allow for flexibility. And – when she came backstage before our first concert in Munich – her thick, dark-red (almost plumb) hair, in a messy French twist, full black skirt and shirt covering every speck of her skin, with a hand-made lace embroidered dicky and cuffs (the dicky also supporting a teeny black satin bow) she was the very image of Clara Schumann. Her stage prowess also matched the legend of Clara – her ability to be in turn cajoling, immense, fragile, and what fun was had in the cat-and-mouse of the third movement (played even faster and more free in the nightly encores). I want more Anna! These past months, as donors have come forward to outfit the quartet with new instruments, I have been proud of my Becker (1928 Chicago). There he stands, nestled between and Amati cello and a Strad violin. He holds his own – the velvet G string, the clear and powerful A. But, this week was my turn. I was met onstage at the Vienna Konzerthaus the morning after our first concert, to try three violins. It is a little like being in an arranged marriage. I have the stats on my future husband, photos, credentials and assurances that he is a fine, upstanding character. But – here I am – just some moments for a brief introduction, and off we go! I tried all three – the cadenza of Tzigane, Meditation from Thais, Sibelius. And – tentatively, I accepted the Testore – 1710 – the great Italian maker and father to a small dynasty of Testore makers. That afternoon I took a long walk – going to the Mozart House museum and the magnificent gothic cathedral St. Stephens – the city where Mozart was born and died, Haydn served as choir boy, and even Vivaldi had service. I returned to the hall to practice and slowly I began to realize this violin could be it. I tested, looked for my voice, discovered a new voice. I said to our cellist – I will miss the velvet sounds of my Becker – and he said – “Anthea – your sound is velvet, not the violin”. I hope this is true. I love the weaknesses and inconsistencies of my Becker – I even seek them out. Like the small things you love about a partner – the nose hair, the way my 5 year old mispronounces bracelet – I search out the wolfs on my G string of my Becker – I love the cracking of sound – the verklemmt. The quartet wants me to stop playing there – the sound is inconsistent and unreliable – but I don’t want to stop – I don’t want to correct the pronunciation of bracelet or have my husband trim his nose hair. I love it. I am boarding now – Testore in hand – for a glorious day in Paris. Old friends from Oregon meet me today – a former student and an elderly couple who were loyal concertgoers. In London, British in-laws came, and in Vienna an old friend from Eugene Oregon came. All in all – a week of new friends and a reconnection with old.

Jean Sibelius
(1865 – 1957)

Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 - 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer of the later Romantic period whose music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity. His mastery of the orchestra has been described as "prodigious". The core of Sibelius's oeuvre is his set of seven symphonies. Like Beethoven, Sibelius used each successive work to further develop his own personal compositional style. His works continue to be performed frequently in the concert hall and are often recorded. In addition to the symphonies, Sibelius's best-known compositions include Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, the Violin Concerto in D minor and The Swan of Tuonela (one of the four movements of the Lemminkäinen Suite). Other works include pieces inspired by the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala; over 100 songs for voice and piano; incidental music for 13 plays; the opera Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the Tower); chamber music; piano music; Masonic ritual music; and 21 separate publications of choral music. Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s. However, after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music to The Tempest (1926), and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he produced no large scale works for the remaining thirty years of his life.



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