Bruno Weil (b. 1949) is world renowned as one of the leading conductors of Viennese Classicism. Beethoven’s Ninth is one of his favourite works. “It’s a complete masterpiece,” he says. “Every movement is on the highest level of composing. When you perform Beethoven, you have to give everything you have. You should not preserve or save anything. It’s like going on Mt. Everest. I’ve never been there, but I can imagine how it is. And when you do it again, you have to start all over again. It’s extremely challenging and demanding music. It’s a huge commitment, but the reaction, the reaction of the audience is so immense, you feel it in your back.” Weil recorded the Ninth Symphony in 2016, as part of the Beethoven cycle he did with the Toronto-based orchestra Tafelmusik of which he is Principal Guest Conductor. All in all, he has extensive experience of period orchestras, early music and festivals, but he is also a frequent guest with orchestras such as the Berlin, Vienna and Los Angeles Philharmonics playing other repertoire, and at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Dresden Semperoper and the Vienna State Opera.
Belgian Sophie Karthäuser is one of today’s greatest Viennese-Classical sopranos, famous especially for her Mozart operatic roles. These she has sung at, among others, the Opéra Comique in Paris, the Theater an der Wien and the Glyndebourne Festival. She even regards Mozart’s music as her home, as a place to which she can always return. Just recently she has also been singing more romantic repertoire, such as the orchestral songs of Berlioz and Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande. She last sang in Helsinki with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra in 2017.
It was for a long time uncertain whether mezzo-soprano Katrin Wundsam would take up a career in music, when it seemed she was destined to run the family farm in Austria. She nevertheless decided to dedicate herself to singing, studied at the Salzburg Mozarteum and made her debut as Despina in Così fan tutte. Since then, she has sung roles in works by such wide-ranging composers as Vivaldi and Richard Strauss, Gluck and Wagner. Since 2009, she has been a member of the ensemble of Oper Köln and guesting at Europe’s most illustrious concert halls and opera houses.
Werner Güra (tenor) comes from Munich and grew up with music. His father played the tuba at the State Opera and took him to see all the operas there, so that even as a child he could sing all the heroic Wagner roles from memory. His interpretations or German Lieder are nowadays beyond compare, but his upwards of 40 discs also comprise Bach oratorios, Baroque operas and classical choral works. He is, however, best known for his Schubert Lieder, especially the Winterreise and Schwanengesang cycles. In 2016, he sang opera arias by Schubert with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra at the Helsinki Music Centre.
Paul Armin Edelmann
Paul Armin Edelmann says he could sing even before he learnt to speak and was already devouring opera by the age of four. He has been touring the world ever since he was a little boy, first with the Vienna Boys’ Choir and nowadays as a much-in-demand baritone. After five years with the Stadttheater Koblenz, he went freelance in 1998 and can now be heard at such prestigious venues as the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong Opera, the New York Lincoln Center and Tokyo’s New National Theatre. Paul Armin Edelmann makes his Helsinki Music Centre debut today.
The Helsinki Music Centre Choir
Founded in autumn 2011 on the initiative of conductors Hannu Lintu, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and John Storgårds, the Helsinki Music Centre Choir of about 90 singers can, as required, regroup from a symphony to a male, female or chamber choir. It works in partnership with all the main Helsinki Music Centre occupants: the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Sibelius Academy. Its Artistic Director was composer Tapani Länsiö from its formation until the beginning of 2017, when he handed over to Nils Schweckendiek and Jani Sivén. The members of the choir are amateurs with a passion for singing.
The HMCC repertoire, planned jointly by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra from a long-term perspective, consists primarily of symphonic choral and orchestral works. The Choir also performs a cappella works for large choir.
The Choir appears mainly at the Helsinki Music Centre but also at events such as the Organ Night and Aria festival in Espoo, the Turku Music Festival and the Ekenäs Summer Concerts.
The Helsinki Music Centre Choir is recruiting more singers. For details of auditions see www.musiikkitalonkuoro.fi.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Ode to Joy”
The Ode to Joy (An die Freude) by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) must surely be one of the most highly-charged works in the musical repertoire. For decades, he planned to set to music the poem by fellow German Friedrich Schiller celebrating the brotherhood of man, before finally incorporating it in the last movement of his iconic Symphony No. 9.
The hymn, without words, is nowadays the anthem of the European Union. Arranged for this purpose by Herbert von Karajan, it was chosen to celebrate the values shared by the EU member states and their unity in diversity and to express the ideals of a united Europe: freedom, peace and solidarity. The Allies are, however, reported to have adopted it during the First World War. Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps were forced to sing it on Hitler’s birthday, and it later became part of the New Year celebrations on both sides of the Berlin Wall. Leonard Bernstein conducted a legendary performance at a concert celebrating German unification. It has also served as the theme song of many international sporting events