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.
During the 2019-2020 concert season Mälkki will debut at both the Orchestre de Paris and the Orchestra dell’ Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. Other highlights of the upcoming season include concerts with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as with the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. At the Paris Opera she will be conducting Philippe Boesmans’ Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy.
Though widely known as a Chopin pianist, Garrick Ohlsson (b. 1948) in fact has a vast, varied repertoire of up to 80 concertos. Within a couple of weeks at the age of eight, he became so glued to the piano that he did nothing but play it when not at school and his mother had to force him to go out and play. After entering the Juilliard School at the age of 13, he won first the Busoni Competition in 1966 and then the Montreal in 1968. The crowning glory was, however, taking the gold medal in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1970; he is still the only American to have won the highest prize in the world’s oldest and maybe most prestigious competition. The following year he was inundated with invitations, sometimes to step in for a soloist who had to cancel at the last moment. During the past few years he has performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in, among others, Philadelphia with Herbert Blomstedt conducting. The music of Mozart is, he says, so perfect that the performer has no alternative but to let it speak for itself, without over-imposing his personal artistic vision.
Ferruccio Busoni: Berceuse élégiaque, Op. 42 (1909)
Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924), a veritable piano virtuoso, was only nine when he performed Mozart’s C-minor concerto KV 491, and his love for Mozart would long remain with him. He also developed an interest in Girolamo Frescobaldi, and in 1920 based a work for piano on music by that 17th-century composer. In his Elegies of 1907 he was, however, seeking a new direction for his piano music. The Elegies also had a strong affinity with the late works of Liszt. Busoni later reworked Elegy No. 7 as Berceuse élégiaque for orchestra in which, he declared, he had at last discovered his very own idiom. Its harmonies are, compared with his other output, bold and even evocative of Schönberg in their expressionism. The Berceuse is, as its name suggests, a lullaby and a character piece such as was also typical of Chopin and Liszt. The orchestral version was sub-titled “The man's lullaby at his mother’s bier”.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto. No 25 in C Major, KV 503 (1786)
The 1780s were a busy time for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). He was much in demand for concerts both public and private, and his repertoire would often include concertos, chamber music, improvisations and even symphonies. When Emperor Joseph II decided to switch from German to Italian opera in Vienna, Mozart was quick to embrace the new trend. He had completed his opera The Marriage of Figaro shortly before composing Piano Concerto No. 25 and would soon be setting off for Prague, where he wrote both his Prague Symphony (no. 38) and Don Giovanni. His significance to the piano concerto as a genre of composition was immense. With no. 25 he entered his mature phase and a more complex style; this applied to his concertos, symphonies and operas alike. The dialogue between soloist and orchestra acquired new dimensions and the orchestra a greater role than before. Being himself a master of the keyboard, he would perform both his own concertos and adaptions of other works popular at the time.
Francesco Filidei: Fiori di fiori
Fiori di fiori by Francesco Filidei (b. 1973) is the first movement of a large musical fresco dedicated to the organ and music composed for it over the centuries. It is based on the collection of Musical Flowers (1635) by Girolamo Frescobaldi and also incorporates the noises produced in playing the organ, such as the sound of the bellows and the tracker action. Different kinds of listening alternate, from close to the pipes to the transfigured acoustics of a large church, the aim being for the listener to experience the instrument as the organist would hear it.
Filidei is an organist himself and has become known as a composer who cultivates “non-musical” sounds in his works, and for this he has developed a special graphic notation system. Fiori di fiori was designed for the organ in the Roman Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano built in 1599. Caricature is also present in the work, as in the quotation from Frescobaldi: “Understand me who can, for I understand myself.”
Franz Liszt: Les Préludes (1848)
The symphonic poem was a type of composition ideally suited to Franz Liszt (1811–1886) in his quest for a new mode of expression, and his work as Grand Ducal Director of Music Extraordinary at the court in Weimar from 1842 allowed him plenty of scope for this. The 12 one-movement symphonic poems devised by him had a rough underlying programme often based on a poem or some other text. His aim was, however, to create a mood rather than to paint a picture in music. Les Préludes is based on an ode of that name by Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869), though the title is thought to have been added later. Musically, it draws on material from Liszt’s own Four Elements for male choir with orchestral accompaniment, and he also did a piano version of the Preludes. Liszt loved making transcriptions, of such music as items from The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, and Ferruccio Busoni in turn arranged, completed and published his transcriptions as critical editions