Like many of his illustrious colleagues (Salonen, Saraste, Vänskä, Mälkki), Klaus Mäkelä (b. 1996) is a former pupil of Jorma Panula. He is already being invited to conduct Sibelius worldwide and regards the fact that he grew up with the music of Finland’s national composer as quite an advantage. He is also an active cellist, and last season both conducted and played solo cello in the Brahms double concerto with the Tapiola Sinfonietta. He could not, he says, imagine life without his cello. “It allows me to play intimate music,” he says, “to extract every possible nuance from each note myself, which I always miss as a conductor.”
During the present season, Mäkelä, who has already conducted all the professional Finnish orchestras, continues to forge ahead, making guest appearances with the Minnesota, Galicia, Gothenburg and MDR Leipzig orchestras and beginning as Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Mäkelä is the newly appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of Oslo Philharmonic, beginning in the 2020/21 season. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Artist in Association with Tapiola Sinfonietta. From 2019 Mäkelä is also Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival.
Mäkelä has conducted the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra many times before and also played in its cello section.
Marko Ylönen (b. 1966) was only 15 when he reached the finals of Finland’s Turku Cello Competition. He later went on to win second prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and in 1996 first prize in the New York-based Concert Artist Guild Competition.
Contemporary music is a major category in Ylönen’s repertoire. He has recorded works by Vasks, Nordgren, Kokkonen and Kaipainen, and the Shchedrin concerto with the HPO in 2000. Twice before he has performed the cello concerto Towards the Horizon by Einojuhani Rautavaara, with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and the Tampere Philharmonic (and Klaus Mäkelä conducting).
“To my mind the work is,” he says, “a sort of swan song, an endless melody that develops and transforms. Lights, shadows and colours in fine shades. The mystical moment comes at the point in the finale when the cello suddenly presents the melody at a three-line octave.”
Ylönen has appeared with the HPO on many occasions. In 1994, he recorded Rautavaara’s first cello concerto with the HPO under Max Pommer. He plays a Cappa School cello from the early 18th century.
Britta Byström: Segelnde Stadt
Britta Byström (b. 1977) is a Swedish composer of orchestral, chamber and vocal music who seeks inspiration in literature, film and visual art. She wrote Segelnde Stadt in 2014 as a commission from the Nordic Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera and it was premiered in Umeå. The title, meaning City of Sails, was inspired by a painting by the Swiss artist Paul Klee in which the various geometrical shapes form something freely reminiscent of kites floating in the air, and this in turn of a city of sails viewed from afar. Klee was musical and played the violin, and this, according to Byström, is reflected in his music. The composition is in the impressionistic, atmospheric style characteristic of Byström.
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Towards the Horizon, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 2
Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928–2016) enjoyed experimenting with different styles – Neoclassicism, Neoromanticism, serialism, 12-note technique – and his 12 solo concertos each reflect the era in which he wrote them. Towards the Horizon (2009) was his second for the cello and is dedicated to Truls Mørk, who was unfortunately unable to play at the premiere in 2010. Instead, the soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä was Arek Tesarczyk. Mørk did, however, record the concerto in 2012 with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under John Storgårds. Concerto No. 2 is in a single movement divided into three parts (Theme, Variations and Finale). The overall title alludes to the section in the finale where the action halts and the violins create a shimmering background for the cello, which sings in a very high register and evokes a distant horizon, towards which the music finally vanishes.
Daníel Bjarnason: Over Light Earth
Over Light Earth (2012) by Iceland’s Daníel Bjarnason (b. 1979) was inspired by two paintings, one by Mark Rothko (Over Light Earth) and the other by Jackson Pollock (Number 1, 1949). Says Bjarnason:
“It was a coincidence in a way that when I started to write the piece,
I happened to see these paintings at MOCA in LA. […] When I started looking at more paintings and more painters from that period, I sort of went under this abstract expressionist umbrella; I could feel a really strong connection to them. So, the pieces aren’t descriptions of the paintings themselves. They’re more of a reflection on that time and those painters. The first thing you take in is the explosion of colour, the vibrancy and the raw energy, seemingly chaotic, but when you stand and look at it for a while… there is also a very pleasing sense of symmetry and calmness that seems to underlie this level of activity.”
Jimmy López: Perú Negro
Peruvian Jimmy López (b. 1978) composed Perú Negro in 2012 as a commission from Miguel Harth-Bedoya, to whom it is dedicated. It incorporates a four-note motif based on letters from Harth-Bedoya’s name. Afro-Peruvian music was, he said, a main source of inspiration for the piece, “but although it makes reference to six specific traditional songs, it is indeed very personal. I did not attempt to merely copy or reproduce Peruvian folklore. On the contrary, I assimilated it and created something entirely new and personal – an invented folklore of sorts which bears the seal of my musical language.”
Jimmy López studied at the Conservatory in his native Lima, at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and the University of California, Berkeley. He has composed orchestral and chamber music, a children’s ballet and an opera and has been awarded many international prizes and distinctions.