A conductor born and bred in Helsinki, Susanna Mälkki grew up to the accompaniment of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2004 she received her first invitation to conduct the orchestra of which she would become Chief Conductor in autumn 2016. Her path to the conductor’s podium passed through the cello classes of the Sibelius Academy and the Edsberg Institute in Stockholm, however, and the position of principal cellist in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. She made her conducting breakthrough in 1999, at the Helsinki Festival, and her first regular conducting appointment was as Artistic Director of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. Her Music Directorship of the celebrated Ensemble Intercontemporain (2006–2013) established her as a profound interpreter of music of the present day.
Susanna Mälkki has conducted the world’s finest orchestras. In season 2017-18 she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera season and took over as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Musical America voted her Conductor of the Year 2017.
German violinist Christian Tetzlaff has been a frequent guest with the HPO. He is a great champion of modern violins and does not play a Strad, preferring instruments made by Stefan-Peter Greiner. The quality of an instrument depends, he says, entirely on the skills of the builder, not on ageing, varnish or the phase of the moon when it was made. “In many recent tests, players and listeners could not distinguish between a great old instrument and a great new one. Stradivari and Guarneri were fantastic violin makers but their instruments are good not because they are old and Italian, but because they are well built – and this is something that somebody can also do nowadays.”
When he was young, Tetzlaff spent all his time playing in youth orchestras. “So for me, music was all about collaborating, and making music in a social way. I loved that experience of touring and being in a situation where the music was more important than any individual.” He has nevertheless succeeding in dazzling audiences and critics alike with his virtuosity as a soloist and above all the timbres he draws from his instrument.
Enno Poppe: FETT
German composer and conductor Enno Poppe (b. 1969) first studied at the Berlin University of the Arts and subsequently at the Center for Art and Media Technology Karlsruhe. His teachers included Friedrich Goldmann, Gösta Neuwirth and Heinrich Taube. Since 1998, Poppe has conducted the ensemble mosaik for contemporary music in Berlin. He has also conducted the Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Resonanz and Ensemble Intercontemporain. Poppe has taught at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin and the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Berlin-Rheinsberg Composition Prize, the Berlin Art Prize and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize.
Poppe has composed mainly orchestral and ensemble music. He has also composed three stage works in collaboration with German author Marcel Beyer: Interzone (2003-04), Arbeit Nahrung Wohnung (2006-07) and IQ (2011-12). He has received commissions from the Salzburg Festival, the Berliner Festwoche International Music Festival, Ensemble Intercontemporain and Ensemble Modern, among others. His most recent works include Rundfunk (2018) for nine synthesizers and a violin concerto (2019) that will be premiered at Beethoven Festival in Bonn this autumn.
When describing Poppe's music, such words as mathematics, biology and geometric structures are often used. Poppe explores, repeats and varies his short motifs as if they were molecules in a test laboratory. The molecules react to each other with explosive energy or quiet vibrations. The interaction between the motifs creates the dramatic arc of his music.
Composed in 2019, the orchestral piece FETT was commissioned by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Bavarian concert series “musica viva”. The piece will be premiered in this evening's concert.
Karol Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35
The first of the two violin concertos by Karol Szymanowski (1882–1937) is more in the nature of a tone poem-fantasia for solo violin and orchestra than a traditional concerto. It is in five sections performed without a break. In writing the solo part, Szymanowski was assisted by violinist Paul Kochanski, who also composed the solo cadenza. Dedicated to Kochanski, the concerto was first performed in Warsaw on 1.11.1922. Kochanski was on tour in the United States at the time, so the soloist at the premiere was Józef Ozimiński. The work caused quite a stir and was later performed by Kochanski to great acclaim in the United States, the UK and elsewhere.
In writing his concerto, Szymanowski sought inspiration in the poetry of his fellow Pole Tadeusz Miciński, and especially the poem Noc Majowa (May Night). Birds sing to the narrator, who has just married a goddess; Pan plays his pipe, and fireflies kiss a wild rose. Szymanowski’s music is every bit as ecstatic and colourful as the poem.
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 52
The third symphony marked a shift in the idiom of Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) from grandiloquent Late Romanticism to a more objective, Classical language. The symphony has only three short movements. Grand gestures are conspicuous by their absence, and the motifs are treated with laconic economy. Sibelius conducted the orchestra of the Helsinki Philharmonic Society (nowadays the HPO) at the premiere in 1907. The reception was mixed: many of the critics had been expecting something along the lines of the first two symphonies, but as Gustav Mahler pointed out to Sibelius when they met a few weeks later, with each new symphony the composer loses the listeners who liked the previous one.
Of the seven Sibelius symphonies, the third is the one least often performed and most underrated. Yet it is the one in which Sibelius decisively began to carry the great symphonic tradition forward. He described the finale, which ends in a broad, singing hymn, as “the crystallisation of thought from chaos”.