Tchaikovsky travelled with his brother Modest to Rome in 1880 and was inspired by the city’s soundscape: the carnivals, the animated locals, even the fanfare of the cavalry that could be heard through his hotel window in the morning. It is very possible that the composer admired the same fountains that inspired Ottorino Respighi to compose his tone poem a few decades later.
Though the son of musical parents, Alan Buribayev (b. 1979) did not as a child automatically imagine a career in music until he heard Wagner’s Tannhäuser at the age of 11. After studying the violin and conducting in Kazakhstan and Vienna, he forged ahead in his career as a conductor on winning top prizes in several prestigious international competitions. Known for his outstanding energy and charisma, he has since conducted such illustrious orchestras as the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Tokyo Metropolitan, the BBC Symphony and the Bolshoi Opera. Helsinki audiences will recall his most memorable debut with the HPO in spring 2013, followed by return visits in 2016 and 2018.
Maestro Buribayev has been Chief Conductor of the Astana Symphony Orchestra in his native Kazakhstan, Generalmusikdirektor of the Meiningen Theatre in Germany, Principal Conductor of the Norrköping Symphony in Sweden, and Chief Conductor of the Brabant Orchestra in the Netherlands. He was Principal Conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Ireland 2010–2016 and is at present Principal Guest Conductor of the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Astana Opera House.
Violinist, pianist, footballer – anything but a cellist said Andreas Brantelid’s father. But luckily he soon relented and began giving his son the cello lessons he begged for. A child of phenomenal talent, Andreas (b. 1987) was only 14 when he played the Elgar concerto with the Royal Danish Orchestra, and he went on to study with Torleif Thedéen and the legendary Frans Helmerson. The past decade has taken him from glory to glory: winner of the Eurovision Young Musicians Competition in 2006, the Paulo Cello Competition in 2007 and a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship in 2008, he released his first disc (with Tchaikovskys Rococo Variations), highly acclaimed by the critics, in 2008.
On the subject of playing in public he says, “It’s important that you do it because you want to do it and that you are not afraid of being creative and giving in to the emotions and feelings the music evokes from within you at the moment.”
Andreas plays the ‘Boni-Hegar’ Stradivarius from 1707, kindly lent to him by the Norwegian Art Collector Christen Sveaas.
Gioachino Rossini: Overture to La Cenerentola
December 1816 found Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868) in Rome, feverishly looking about for a topic for an opera to follow his immensely popular Barber of Seville. Having rejected more than 20 suggestions, he was about to fall asleep when the writer Jacopo Ferretti mentioned the well-known tale of Cinderella, dashed off the first part of a libretto overnight and Respighi set to work. La Cenerentola (Cinderella) was premiered in Rome in 1817. It was bound to be a success, he thought, and so it was. For a while in the 20th century it disappeared from the repertoire, but such stars as Cecilia Bartoli and Joyce DiDonato have since dazzled audiences in the title role. In order to save time, Rossini had no compunctions about lifting chunks of his music from one work to another. Cinderella contains a fragment from an aria in The Barber of Seville, and Rossini took the overture from an earlier opera, La Gazzetta. It begins in deceptively calm vein but soon picks up speed as the fun and games begin.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) saw Mozart as the perfect composer. His music made him happy, he said – no mean consideration for a composer who often felt depressed. The Rococo Austrian inspired him to write the orchestral suite Mozartiana, the pastoral scene in the opera The Queen of Spades, and the Rococo Variations for cello and orchestra. These Variations were composed for Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, a German cello professor and his colleague at the Moscow Conservatory. Fitzenhagen performed the work all over Europe, but unfortunately he edited the cello part to suit himself and make it more virtuosic. He also altered the order of the variations. Tchaikovsky was aware of this, but could not be bothered to do anything about it. Attempts have been made to reinstate the original version at least since the 1970s, but with varying success. Whatever, it is one of Tchaikovsky’s most charming works, its graceful melodiousness appealing to professionals and ‘ordinary folk’ alike.
Ottorino Respighi: The Fountains of Rome
Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936) composed several orchestral works inspired by Italian history and culture. The Fountains of Rome, the symphonic poem he composed in 1916, was his first widely-acclaimed work, and would be followed by The Pines of Rome in 1924 and Roman Festivals in 1928. Together these three colourfully-orchestrated works trace a period from dawn to dusk. Respighi’s aim in The Fountains was to express the emotions and visions aroused by four Roman fountains. The Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn is a pastoral mood piece interrupted by a call from the brass and The Triton Fountain in the Morning; this evokes the Baroque masterpiece by the sculptor Bernini showing the sea god supported by dolphins. The Trevi Fountain at Noon was inspired by Rome’s biggest fountain, dating from 1762, and builds up to mighty climaxes, and The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset brings the suite to a poetic conclusion.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italien, Op. 45
Rome was also the destination of Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) at carnival time in 1879. He had been planning to spend most of his stay working in his hotel room but got swept along by the revels and fell so in love with the city that he decided to compose something using Italian folk tunes. By the end of January he was able to write to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck: “It will be effective, thanks to its delightful tunes, some of which were chosen from collections, and some of which I heard myself on the streets.” In the end, he called it Capriccio Italien (Italian Caprice). And Tchaikovsky was right in reckoning it would be a great success.
The Caprice begins with a fanfare that, according to Tchaikovsky’s brother, was a signal used at a cavalry barracks and which the composer heard through his window every day in Rome. Next comes a melancholy melody, followed by two sunnier ones, and the piece ends with a spirited tarantella