Introduction

The 110th anniversary of the birth of composer Erik Bergman is being celebrated with choral music, solo trumpet and the premiere of a Finnish piece. 

“The music has the wisdom that comes with old age without losing any freshness and surprise. [---] We would like to see the piece in the repertoire of our trumpetists,” wrote Helsingin Sanomat describing Bergman’s last composition. In this concert, Pasi Pirinen, principal of the HPO’s trumpet section, to whom Bergman dedicated his work, will perform as the soloist of the Fantasy, who highlights the instrument's diverse roles. 

The evening culminates with the premiere of a new Finnish piece. Seppo Pohjola's composition has been inspired by Oskar Merikanto's Valse lente. Juuret (Roots) was commissioned for the orchestra's Helsinki Variations project. 

Watch and listen both live and on-demand through the Helsinki-kanava site and via the HKO Screen-app. 
LINK TO HELSINKI-KANAVA

Watch live and discuss through the orchestra's YouTube channel 
LINK TO YOUTUBE

 

Nils Schweckendiek

Born in Germany and brought up in England, Nils Schweckendiek has been making his mark as a conductor in Finland since 2000. Though best known for his work with contemporary choral music, he has also conducted orchestras and opera from Finland to China and in every corner of Europe.

“The Bergman odyssey is also a Finnish classical music odyssey,” he says. “Bergman liked challenging audiences and players alike, and it’s good to get back to his works now that our own listening experiences have changed with the decades. Bartók was a major source of inspiration for Bergman, and we are honouring Bergman’s endless curiosity for the new with a premiere, Seppo Pohjola’s Roots.”

 

Pasi Pirinen

Pasi Pirinen, leader of the HPO’s trumpet section, has wide international experience, having lived in England and Argentina, studied in Helsinki, London, Cleveland and Paris and held masterclasses at prestigious venues outside his native Finland. He has also guested as section leader with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Mahler Chamber and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestras and spent ten years with the Finnish RSO before joining the HPO. He nowadays teaches the next generation, too, at the Sibelius Academy and the Conservatory in Beijing. He has premiered many works, including the Fantasy by Erik Bergman dedicated to him.

 

Helsinki Chamber Choir  

The Helsinki Chamber Choir was founded in 1962 as the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir and assumed its current name in 2005. It is currently Finland’s only professional chamber choir.  

While its wide-ranging repertoire includes music from the Renaissance to the present day, the Helsinki Chamber Choir is particularly highly regarded for its work with new music. The choir regularly commissions new works and has given over 80 world premieres in the seasons since 2005, as well as more than 30 Finnish first performances. 

The choir appears frequently at festivals in Finland and abroad and collaborates with symphony orchestras, period-instrument ensembles and contemporary music groups. Its concerts are regularly broadcast on national radio and television, and it has also appeared in productions for the Arte channel and the European Broadcasting Union, among others with Einojuhani Rautavaara's Vigilia in 2013.  

The Helsinki Chamber Choir is a member of Tenso, the European network of professional chamber choirs. Recent touring has taken the choir to the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Russia and around Scandinavia. The choir records regularly among others for BIS Records. 

Since 2007 Professor Nils Schweckendiek has been Artistic Director of the Helsinki Chamber Choir. 

www.helsinkichamberchoir.fi 

 

Four Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 12

The young Béla Bartók (1881–1945) felt misunderstood; the critics failed to understand his music, and his opera Bluebeard’s Castle was considered so difficult that no one at first wanted to perform it. The Four Pieces for Orchestra somehow seem to reflect his inner uncertainty. Having sketched them in 1912, he put them aside and told a friend it would be better not to finish a work than to risk having it performed and misunderstood. By the time he finally completed his Four Pieces in 1921, he had written Bluebeard’s Castle and the ballet-pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin in which he at last seemed to have found an idiom that suited him. The first piece (Preludio) is a Pastorale with Impressionist echoes, the second (Scherzo) a quick, violent, dissonant waltz. The third (Intermezzo) is a slowly dancing Siciliano and the most lyrical and melodic in the suite, and the last one is a bitter funeral march (Marcia funebre), neither heroic nor mournful.

 

SimboloSommarnatt, Psalm, Hommage à Béla Bartók

“I’m constantly striving for something new. Stasis is nothing less than the force and power of death,” said Finnish composer Erik Bergman (1911–2006). Beginning his career as a Romantic, he became interested in 12-tone technique in the 1950s and went on to become the nation’s best-known Modernist. His music is characterised by expressive dissonance, orchestral colour and the juxtaposition of soft and loud. He often sought inspiration in other cultures.

Simbolo (1960), one of his earliest works for orchestra, uses a technique – 12-tone – at that time familiar to few in Finland. It incorporates a row from which the rhythms and dynamics are derived. Bergman conducted a number of choirs. Sommarnatt (On a Summer Night, 1945), a setting of a poem by Anne-Marie Hornborg (1923–2008) represents his early, fairly traditional idiom; Psalm (1959), to words by his third wife Solveig von Schoultz (1907–1996) his mature, Modernist style. Hommage à Béla Bartók (1995), a commission from Hungarian Radio, is a tribute to a composer he greatly admired.

 

Fantasy for trumpet and orchestra

The Fantasy for trumpet and orchestra is the last opus number in Bergman’s catalogue. It was commissioned by Pasi Pirinen and premiered by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2004. Bergman wrote at the time that Pasi Pirinen had commissioned a concerto for trumpet and concerto, but it turned out to be something quite different: a Fantasy with two solo cadenzas.

 

Seppo Pohjola: Juuret (Roots)

Seppo Pohjola (b. 1956) is a Finnish composer of orchestral and chamber music, an opera (about Nobel prize-winning Frans Emil Sillanpää) and other works, expertly operating with styles ranging from sometimes spiky modernism to romanticism and urban rhythms. In 2018, he wrote a piece called Lähde (The Spring) as a commission for the HPO’s Helsinki Variations series.

The following year, he began work on his sixth symphony. All was going well, but for some inexplicable reason he began thinking of it as an ‘unfinished symphony’. Also snatches of the Valse Lente by an earlier Finnish composer, Oskar Merikanto, seemed to be demanding to be included in the music. A few months later, Pohjola wrote in his diary: “This is threatening to become a demonic piece, and the Valse Lente is trying to force its way in at the end again! I realised that I was composing a new work that would correspond extremely well to the Helsinki Variations idea.” The HPO now premieres Juuret (Roots) in Helsinki Variations series, and the original piece Lähde (The Spring) awaits its premiere.

Artists

Nils Schweckendiek
conductor
Pasi Pirinen
trumpet
Helsingin kamarikuoro
Eleriin Müüripeal & George Parris
kuoron valmennus

Programme

    19:00
    Béla Bartók
    Four Pieces for Orchestra op. 12
    Erik Bergman
    Simbolo op. 52
    Intermission
    Erik Bergman
    Sommarnatt / Psalm / Hommage à Béla Bartók
    Erik Bergman
    Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra op. 150
    21:15
    Seppo Pohjola
    Roots
Musiikkitalo Concert Hall
Nils Schweckendiek
Pasi Pirinen
Helsingin kamarikuoro
Eleriin Müüripeal & George Parris
Béla Bartók
Four Pieces for Orchestra op. 12
Erik Bergman
Simbolo op. 52
Intermission
Erik Bergman
Sommarnatt / Psalm / Hommage à Béla Bartók
Erik Bergman
Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra op. 150
Seppo Pohjola
Roots