Dalia Stasevska (b. 1984) was still a mere teenager when she decided to make music her career. Having joined the ranks of the Tampere Philharmonic when she was only 16, she went on to study the viola at the Sibelius Academy. While playing in the Academy’s student orchestra, she was able to observe conductors at close hand and later entered the conducting class of Finland’s celebrated Jorma Panula. Since graduating in 2012, she has quickly won a reputation as a charismatic conductor known for her energetic interpretations. Recent engagements have included appearances with the Oslo and Stockholm Philharmonics, the BBC Symphony and other major orchestras, and she has conducted several productions at the Finnish National Opera. In August she conducted the opera Autumn Sonata at Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Baltic Sea Festival. She last conducted the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra at the opening concert of the 2016 Helsinki Festival.
Follow Dalia on Twitter @DaliaStasevska.
“My father wanted me to be a musician – a violinist,” says Armenian Narek Hakhnazarayan (b. 1988). “But my mother really loved the cello, and one day she secretly took me at age six to the cello class at the Sayat Nova School. When she told my father, he was very angry and disappointed.” Narek later went on to study in Moscow and Boston, and the path to a solo career lay open after he had won prizes in many competitions. These included first prize in the Aram Khachaturian Competition in 2006, but his real breakthrough came with gold in the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition – in which he played the Dvořák Concerto.
Now one of the world’s most sought-after cellists, Narek Hakhnazarayan has appeared with prestigious orchestras as far apart as London and Chicago, Toronto and the Mariinsky Theatre. The buzz he feels before a performance may depend on the work to be performed:
“If it’s a piece I know well, I just enjoy myself and hope the audience finds it interesting. I always make dialogues with the orchestra members, even visual dialogues which make the performance much more fun. At the end of the performance, I’m usually sorry that it is finished,” he says.
Benjamin Britten: Four Sea Interludes
Of the many operas by Benjamin Britten (1913–1976), the most popular is probably Peter Grimes telling of a grumpy, lonely fisherman. When his young apprentice dies in shady circumstances, Grimes throws himself at the mercy of the sea in order to escape the hostile villagers. For Britten, the opera above all depicted the tragedy of the individual faced with an angry community, maybe reflecting the disapproval from which he personally suffered as a pacifist in WWII and his homosexuality.
The Four Sea Interludes in the opera capture the rugged poetry of the east coast of England. The first, Dawn, describes the cold morning on the shore, while the second, Sunday Morning, is full of life and energy as the church bell calls the villagers to listen to the sermon. Moonlight is a static, mystical mood piece, and the last interlude is a raging Storm.
Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E Flat, Op. 107
One of the teachers of Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) was Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975). The young student was thinking of asking him to write him a cello concerto until the composer’s wife advised him: “Slava, if you want Dmitri Dmitriyevich to write something for you, the only recipe I can give you is this – never ask him or talk to him about it.” Slava’s patience was rewarded in 1959, when Dmitri Dmitriyevich did as he had hoped. The cellist was so excited that he learnt the demanding solo part in four days. The Concerto No. 1 in E flat was first performed in Leningrad and later on tour in America. It was also recorded there with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, setting the soloist on the road to international fame. Seven years later, Rostropovich premiered another Shostakovich cello concerto written for him. Tonight’s concerto is in four movements, the last three of which are played without a break.
Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony. No 4 in A, “Italian”
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) began sketching his A-major symphony during a visit to Italy in 1830, but it then got put aside and was not resurrected until the London Philharmonic Society commissioned a work from him two years later. Though premiered in 1833, Mendelssohn was not satisfied with it and kept planning revisions, so that it was not published until after his death. Though numbered 4, it was chronologically his third symphony.
The symphony reflects a tourist’s impressions of Italy rather than stark reality, and sunnier, more cheerful music would be difficult to find. Never is there a tragic moment. The first movement is full of captivating energy despite a few occasional moments in the shade, and the second was inspired by a religious procession witnessed by Mendelssohn in Naples. The third is a laid-back Minuet and the fourth a hectic Saltarello dance.