” When I woke up I heard a sound, it grew ever louder, I could no longer imagine myself in a dream, music was sounding, and what music! reads the diary entry of Richard Wagner’s wife Cosima, on Christmas Day 1870, after the premiere of her symphonic birthday present. Conductor Risto Joost guides listeners straight into the core of the central European musical tradition. HPO violist Atte Kilpeläinen and dancer Auri Ahola interpret American composer Nico Muhly’s piece Etude 3.
Risto Joost (b. 1980) has resolutely worked to achieve a sovereign command of all the classical music genres. Beginning his studies in his native Estonia, he continued in Vienna and in the class of the legendary Jorma Panula in Stockholm. Winner of the Jorma Panula Competition in 2012 and a finalist in the Malko Competition in 2015 established him as one of the most talented conductors of this decade. He has been conductor in residence of the Estonian National Opera since 2009, Chief Conductor of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra since 2013, Artistic Director of the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir from 2015/16 and as of spring 2016 Artistic Director of the Tallinn Philharmonic Society. With the Leipzig choir he won a Diapason d’Or for a disc of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers.
In recent years, Joost has conducted opera at such prestigious opera houses as La Fenice. He has also proved his command of contemporary repertoire. Joost made his his HPO debut in 2019, and has previously conducted in Finland the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Oulu Sinfonia and Jyväskylä Sinfonia.
Pianist Janne Mertanen studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where his teachers included Erik T. Tawastjerna and Dmitri Baskirov. He then completed his studies with Lazar Berman at the Accademia Pianistica in Imola, Italy.
Mertanen came to the attention of the wider musical public in 1992 with a win in the International Chopin Competition in Darmstadt, Germany. In the same year he won the first price also in the Nyborg Nordic Competition. Janne Mertanen has had orchestra engagements in South America, Asia and in Europe. In March 2010 he made his South American debut as the soloist of the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Orchestra of the National Theater of Brazil conducted by Ira Levine. In 2014 he made his soloist debut in Japan with Tokyo New City Orchestra. Recital appearances have taken him around most of the European countries, Canada, America, Australia and Asia. He made his debut at the Wigmore Hall in London in October 1994 with a programme of works by Chopin.
Mertanen last performed as a soloist with the HpO in 1993 and 2010.
Atte Kilpeläinen's music studies culminated in degrees from Cologne University of Music and Sibelius Academy. Since 2005 he has held the position of principal viola in the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. As a guest leader he has worked in orchestras like Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
Auri Ahola (born in 1984) is a versatile dance artist who has forged an extensive career, ranging from classical ballet to contemporary dance and multidisciplinary works.
Auri Ahola graduated from the Ballet School of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet in 2004. After that, she danced for ten years at the Finnish National Ballet, performing in all key classical ballet works and in contemporary dance works of top international choreographers, including Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián and Tero Saarinen. When she left the National Ballet, she worked with leading dance compa- nies, including Tero Saarinen Company, Raekallio Corp., Compañía Kaari & Roni Martin and Helsinki Dance Company. Ahola has performed in over 60 works on numerous dance stages and festivals in Finland and abroad.
In her own works, Auri Ahola integrates contemporary dance with Sami culture. She created her dance piece Jotteeh (The Wanderers) in 2017 on the theme of travelling to the rhythm of nature, inspired by the traditional yearly move of the Inari Sami. The common themes for Ahola’s works are strong physical movement and her personal voice. She has also created multidisciplinary works and projects, combining dance with literature, circus art and joiks, traditional Sami singing.
Auri Ahola lives and works in Inari.
Richard Wagner: The Siegfried Idyll
Richard Wagner (1813–1883) had been married to Cosima for two years when, as a surprise, he composed a piece for her birthday and got a group of friends from the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra to perform it on the steps of their villa on Christmas Day 1870.
“As I awoke, my ear caught a sound which swelled further and further; no longer could I imagine myself to be dreaming, music was sounding, and what music!” Cosima wrote in her diary. “As it died away, Richard came into my room with the five children and offered me the score of the symphonic birthday poem – I was in tears, but so was the whole house.” Though intended for private use only, Wagner, being short of cash, later sold it and it was published as The Siegfried Idyll, after their son.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major KV488
The piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) rank among his greatest works. He is known to have offered that in A major of 1786 to the court orchestra in Donaueschingen with a note saying that should His Highness not have any clarinets at his court, a competent clarinettist might transpose the parts into the keys suitable for a violin and viola. The orchestra was not, however, interested, and like many of Mozart’s other concertos, this one did not win an established place in the repertoire until the 20th century. Whereas the early concertos are basically in the light, entertaining “galant” style, the mature ones engaged in greater dialogue between soloist and orchestra.
The A major is a poetic concerto, and somewhat introspective. The cadenza (in those days usually improvised by the soloist) at the end of the first movement is Mozart’s own.
Nico Muhly: Étude 3
Nico Muhly wrote his three Études (2008–2013) for violist Nadia Sirota. The three were designed as performance pieces as well as practice studies, and they can be performed independently. Accompanying the solo viola in No. 3 is a tape.
A US composer who works with not only classical music but also pop and rock, Nico Muhly (b. 1981) has collaborated with many contemporary composers, ensembles, collectives and musicians, including Finland’s Pekka Kuusisto. His extensive output is biased towards vocal and orchestral music. He has also written three operas, film scores, and a viola concerto.
Maurice Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin
Le Tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) was originally a piano suite inspired by music of the Baroque, and especially the harpsichord pieces by François Couperin. In Baroque tradition, a tombeau (tomb) was a musical monument to a particular person, and Ravel now devoted each movement to a friend who had died in the war. He later made a version for orchestra, omitting two of the original movements. Accused of writing music that sounded too jolly for a tribute to the dead, Ravel replied: “The dead are sad enough in their eternal silence.” The flowing Prelude is dedicated to Ltn. Jacques Charlot, the light Forlane (an Italian folk dance) to Ltn. Gabriel Deluc (a painter), the nostalgic Minuet to Jean Dreyfus and the lively Rigaudon to his childhood friends Pierre and Pascal Gaudin.