Introduction

The autumn season is opened with memories from the turn of the century

The autumn season is opened with memories from the turn of the century, when the orchestra premiered several works by Sibelius, such as the Wood Nymph and Cassazione. Flautist Jenny Villanen and dancer Natasha Lommi premiere the dance- and music duet series. 

 

Susanna Mälkki

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.

Jaani Länsiö
Translation: Susan Sinisalo

 

Jenny Villanen

Jenny Villanen has played solo piccolo in the HPO since 2007 and alternated as section leader, having previously been a member of the Guards Band for four years. She has also worked with other Finnish orchestras, such as those of the Finnish National Opera and the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Solo appearances have included the Nielsen flute concerto with the HPO, and she has premiered works for solo flute and ensembles by several Finnish composers. Jenny is at present preparing for the Finnish body fitness championships.

 

Natasha Lommi

Natasha Lommi (Tero Saarinen Company) began her career at Tamara Rasmussen Opisto dance college in Helsinki. She continued her studies at Danshögskolan in Stockholm, graduating in 2005, and then from the Theatre Academy in Helsinki in 2007. Lommi has worked with several famous Finnish choreographers, such as Tommi Kitti, Susanna Leinonen and Tero Saarinen. She is one of the founding members of TARGET Helsinki. Alongside her work as a dancer, she has choreographed for e.g. contemporary circus (Agit Cirk), popular music (Paula Vesala’s concerts) as well as dance films and installations. In addition, she has been teaching dance since 2000 and worked as a repetitor in several dance companies. Lommi has been a visiting dancer at Tero Saarinen Company since 2011.

 

Voice (chor. Natasha Lommi)

The September-October concert series features duets by a musician and a dancer. Toru Takemitsu's Voice will be interpreted by HKO's flutist Jenny Villanen and Natasha Lommi from Tero Saarinen Company. Known as a virtuoso dancer and intensive performer, Lommi’s choreography aims to fully embody Takemitsu’s Asian-influenced and fragmentary music. An interesting angle to this dialogue between two finely tuned instruments – the flute and the dancer’s body – is the fact that Lommi her self has played the flute for over 15 years.

 

Jean Sibelius: Impromptu for string orchestra

Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) composed many small-scale pieces and suites, most of them for concerts he was to conduct. This Impromptu is an arrangement for string orchestra of two piano impromptus inspired by a visit he made to Karelia with a view to collecting archaic Finnish poetry, and they may be said to contain sounds evocative of a kantele (a traditional Finnish folk instrument) and Karelian dance tunes. Some of the melodic material in the string version further has its origin in a melodrama by the Finnish poet Runeberg. Sibelius conducted the premiere in Turku in 1894. Of simple construction, the Impromptu has a slow beginning and end framing a more active, dance-like middle section.

 

Richard Strauss: Serenade in E-flat Major, Op. 7

The Serenade for 13 wind instruments of 1881 is the work that first made the name of Richard Strauss (1864–1949) known to the world. It caught the ear of Hans von Bülow, one of the most influential conductors of his day, who conducted it in Berlin and elsewhere and gave Strauss a flying start in his career. The early Serenade has its roots in the tradition of Mozart and the Romantics, though Strauss would later be associated more with the early 20th century avant-garde. In one movement, it is utterly Classical and in sonata form, and the melodies may be evocative of Schubert. The teenage Strauss handled his wind instruments with natural ease, maybe thanks to the fact that his father was a professional horn player and Richard was familiar with orchestras and wind instruments from childhood onwards.
 

Jean Sibelius: Skogsrået

Skogsrået, The Wood Nymph is a melodrama for narrator, strings, two French horns and piano by Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) based on a poem in Swedish by Viktor Rydberg. Some reckoned that the musical events were difficult to follow unless you knew the poem, but luckily the words were printed in the programme for the premiere in 1895. Sibelius later made an orchestral version and conducted it several times, but it was then forgotten and did not resurface until the 1990s. The poem tells of a young man, Björn, who sets off into the forest one autumn evening. He there has various adventures before being seduced by a beautiful wood nymph. Returning home, he cannot get the events out of his mind and no longer cares for his wife, his children and work. For as Rydberg puts it: “He whose heart a wood nymph stole can never hope to retrieve it.”

 

Toru Takemitsu: Voice

The best-known 20th-century Japanese composer, Toru Takemitsu (1930–1996) was largely self-taught. In 1958 he was talent-spotted by Igor Stravinsky, then visiting Japan, and commissions soon rained in from abroad. Soon after, he began combining Japanese tradition with elements of Western modernism. A fine example is Voice for solo flute of 1971 commissioned by French flautist Aurèle Nicolet. He wrote it in a single day and it was premiered in Tokyo that year. Takemitsu often collaborated with Nicolet thereafter, and the last piece he wrote was Air (1995), which she premiered after his death.

Voice uses such modernist effects as noise, multiphonics, microintervals and the player’s speech. At one point the flautist quotes a line by Japanese poet Shizo Takiguchi: “Who goes there? Speak, transparence, whoever you are!”

 

Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25, “Classical”

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953) deliberately branded himself the enfant terrible of Russian music; people either loved him or hated him. His Classical Symphony of 1918 nevertheless took his audience completely by surprise, for instead of being dissonant with hammering rhythms, it was tonal and melodic, in a word: listener-friendly. For inspiration he had, he said, turned to Haydn. “It seems to me that if Haydn had lived to our day, he would have retained his own style while absorbing something new at the same time. This was the kind of symphony I wanted to write.” In naming his symphony, he also hoped it would become a classic, as indeed it has. Like its Viennese models, it is in four movements and scored for a smallish orchestra. The first movement is fast, the second calm, the third a gavotte and the fourth a breakneck Molto vivace.

 

Jean Sibelius: Cassazione

Critics of a concert given by the orchestra of the Helsinki Philharmonic Society (nowadays the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra) in 1904 were somewhat scathing about the Cassazione composed by its conductor, Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), in 1904. He began to have doubts about it himself, and even after making a new version of it, was still not satisfied and made a note to himself to revise it further. He never got round to doing so, however. A cassazione (eng. Cassation) was a type of composition popular in Austria, particularly, in the 18th century and stylistically related to a serenade or divertimento. Haydn and Mozart both composed cassations. This one by Sibelius is in five sections performed without a break, each either briskly optimistic or glowingly romantic.

 

 

 

Artists

Susanna Mälkki
conductor
Rabbe Smedlund
narrator
Jenny Villanen
flute
Natasha Lommi
choreography, dance

Programme

    18:00
    Jean Sibelius
    Impromptu
    Richard Strauss
    Serenade for winds Eb Major op. 7
    Jean Sibelius
    The Wood Nymph op. 15
    Toru Takemitsu
    Voice
    Sergei Prokofjev
    Sinfonia nro 1 "Klassinen"
    19:15
    Jean Sibelius
    Cassazione op. 6
Musiikkitalo Concert Hall
Susanna Mälkki
Rabbe Smedlund
Jenny Villanen
Natasha Lommi
Jean Sibelius
Impromptu
Richard Strauss
Serenade for winds Eb Major op. 7
Jean Sibelius
The Wood Nymph op. 15
Toru Takemitsu
Voice
Sergei Prokofjev
Sinfonia nro 1 "Klassinen"
Jean Sibelius
Cassazione op. 6