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On Stage

Jörg Widmann composer clarinettistPhoto: Marco Borggreve

The Radio Filharmonisch Orkest explores Maderna, Castiglioni, and Widmann

The sound worlds of Maderna, Castiglioni and Widmann at the Concertgebouw. The Dutch radio orchestras have had a difficult recent history. In 2010, the Dutch government threatened to completely defund the Radio Filhamonisch Orkest's (RFO) parent organization. While funding has since been partially restored, the RFO's chamber orchestra counterpart, the Radio Kamer Filharmonie, was recently disbanded. Under these demoralizing circumstances it was both impressive and heartening to see that the RFO ...
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Finnish RSO season opening concert

Hannu Lintu has enjoyed a long relationship with the Finnish RSO and this collaboration became a commitment during the 2013-2014 season, when Lintu became Chief Conductor of this ensemble. In this program, Lintu began his second full season in this capacity with a varied program of early 20th and 21st-century works. The program began with Sibelius' Symphony No. 5, a work familiar to Helsinki audiences. The opening chorale under Lintu's direction ...
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Karita Mattila sings Schönberg at the Helsinki Festival

The second program of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra at this year's Helsinki Festival was focused on Vienna: Mahler's final symphony. Guest conductor Susanna Mälkki provided three contrasting views on this theme, with the music of Mahler, Busoni, and Schönberg. Mahler's Symphony No. 10 was left unfinished at the time of the composer's death. The Adagio movement is considered to be the only performable movement written entirely by the composer. Despite ...
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Sibelius Academy Summer Young Talent Series: Elisa Rusi-Matero, violin

One of reasons why classical music continues to thrive in Finland is due to the steady stream of extraordinarily talented musicians trained at the Sibelius Academy. The Summer Young Talent Series provides these musicians a public forum for their artistry, which is particularly welcome during the relatively quiet Helsinki summer concert season. On this occasion the violinist Elisa Rusi-Matero presented a varied program of mostly 20th and 21st century works. The ...
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Philharmonia Orchestra on Tour in Salzburg

One, two, three women; ten, twenty, thirty… No doubt about it, the orchestra entering on the stage of the Grand Hall of the Salzburg was not the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which is still effectively opposed to any form of equality between men and women in its ranks. The Philharmonia, invited for a brief residence of two concerts in Salzburg, is considered a modern orchestra; where the Viennese seem to sort ...
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Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Helsinki Festival

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, despite being one of Canada's flagship ensembles, has had a difficult recent history. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the orchestra struggled with financial difficulties, a musician's strike, poor attendance, and a seeming lack of public sympathy to the orchestra's situation. Some even wondered if the orchestra would survive. The fact that the ensemble has risen from the abyss and is now touring some of Europe's ...
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Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts all-Shostakovich at the Helsinki Festival

The Finnish musical world is rightly proud of its many conductors working on the international circuit, but there seems to be an extra layer of excitement and anticipation whenever Esa-Pekka Salonen is performing in Helsinki. In a YouTube video produced by the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Salonen calls Orango and the Symphony No. 4 as the "two sides of Shostakovich." Written within a few years of each other, both works display ...
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Sibelius Academy Summer Young Talent Series : Pinja Laine, cello

2014 marks the 80th birthday year of the great Russian composer Alfred Schnittke. Although Schnittke's first cello sonata and first cello concerto are starting to enter the repertoire, most of Schnittke's output featuring the cello is infrequently performed. The young cellist Pinja Laine has commemorated this major Schnittke year by performing his rarely-heard Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, along with his more popular Suite in the Old Style. ...
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Award winners at the Verbier Festival

The Verbier Festival hosted two laureates of the 2014 International Classical Music Awards-- the conductor, Charles Dutoit, and the violinist, Daniel Hope. Charles Dutoit (Lifetime Achievement Award), conducted the Verbier Festival Orchestra in two concerts. In the first, the orchestra accompanied the legendary Martha Argerich in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. A few days later, maestro Dutoit led a concert performance of the Damnation of Faust by Hector Berlioz. During these ...

Young talent at the Helsinki Chamber Summer

Now in its tenth year, the Kamarikesä Festival (Helsinki Chamber Summer) was founded to serve as a platform for young and talented Finnish musicians to showcase their artistry in a formal concert setting. The first half of the opening program was focused on the cello, featuring the finalists from Finland's national cello competition. Two well-known works for cello ensemble from Villa-Lobos, as well as a more recent work from the Finnish ...
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Chantier Woyzeck Revisited

The title of Aurélien Dumont's opera, Chantier Woyzeck, which premiered at the Théâtre Jean-Vilar in Vitry-sur-Seine, has a triple meaning. First, it describes the setting: a neighborhood under reconstruction, a cité (housing development) being demolished, where the twelve characters, who comprise a community without normality or humanity, live on a piece of wasteland nicknamed “the plateau” because it overlooks the city. Chantier Woyzeck can also describe the state in which George ...
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Turandot Bangs a Gong in Montréal

The Opéra de Montréal closed its 34th season with Puccini's unfinished opera Turandot. Graeme Murphy’s production of Turandot, which originated in Australia twenty years ago (and which is also available on DVD), remains as attractive as ever. This staging’s undeniably greatest asset is the absence of any dead spots, any moments when the visual elements conflict with the ensemble’s spatial patterns or when their movements appear too studied or obviously choreographed—a powerful staging, galvanized by ...
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The 2014 edition of the ResMusica Summer Festivals Guide

The 2014 edition of the ResMusica Summer Festivals Guide The third edition of the ResMusica Summer Festivals Guide offers a selection of 60 European festivals of classical music and dance . As with  previous editions, this enhanced version uses the successful  downloadable-only  format. This selection of festivals is intentionally European (at a time when would-be soothsaying demagogues and pitchmen once again hope to build walls between people) because, as with all the ...
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Thaïs at Los Angeles with Domingo and Fournillier

Plácido Domingo offers American audiences his first Athanaël, already successfully honed in Europe, and about which there really is nothing to say or write…or very little. At 72, the General Director of the Los Angeles Opera, is still, despite everything, a 10, in the vocal and dramatic “force of nature” category! The breath is slightly shorter, the timbre slightly less colored. The movements have slowed down a bit, but this Athanaël, ...
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Hartmut Haenchen conducts the Helsinki Philharmonic

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 may be one of the most performed pieces of orchestral music, and the first 2-4 measures of this work could be the most recognized musical excerpt of all of classical music. With a legacy consisting of literally countless recordings and interpretations, how does one approach this well-worn score and still make it sound vital and fresh? Based on this evening's performance, Haenchen's answer to this question appeared ...
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Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts the Finnish RSO in Dutilleux, Strauss, and Brahms

Jukka-Pekka Saraste is a familiar presence to Helsinki audiences, regularly conducting both the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. His interpretive style generally focuses on clarity, balance and transparency, while avoiding excesses such as bombast or effusive sentimentality. Such an approach led to mixed results in this program of Dutilleux, Strauss, and Brahms. Saraste is almost solely responsible for the regular performances of Dutilleux's orchestral music in Helsinki, and ...
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A journey with quater tones, and death: Hannu Lintu conducts the Tapiola Sinfonietta

For both musicians and audiences only familiar with the Western chromatic scale of 12 pitches, listening to music which employs quarter tones can be a disorienting experience. If a composer wishes to write a piece which employs quarter tones as an integral part of the musical fabric, as opposed to simple extensions of color, the role of each quarter tone pitch needs to be firmly established within the harmonic vocabulary ...
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The Beethoven Festival 2014 in Warsaw

Founder Elżbieta Penderecka chose Beethoven and the ideal of freedom as a theme for this new edition, using the anniversary of the Fidelio's composition as a backdrop. For almost two weeks, there were daily concerts at the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and at the royal castle, with operas, symphonic concerts and chamber music recitals. The 2014 edition also hosted the yearly gala of the International Classical Music Awards. As for the guest ...
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The 2014 ICMA Gala in Warsaw

The 2014 ICMA Ceremony and Gala took place in Warsaw, during the Easter Beethoven Festival, one of the major cultural events of Central Europe. The Polish young orchestra (Sinfonia Juventus) was onstage for this very special concert; it also received a prize for their recording of the entirety of Penderecki's Symphonies under the direction of the composer (Dux–2013 Recording of the Year for ResMusica). The first part of the evening was ...
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Rossini’s Otello at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

Parisian intellectuals have the habit of booing the direction at all openings, as if it were their only reason for buying a ticket in the first place. To walk in their footsteps is not the point. Indeed, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's work was rather more interesting than usual. The action shifts to an undetermined, contemporary date. The first act takes place in the anteroom of an official building with many ...
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Transiberian Festival

Deep in the heart of the Siberian forests, Novosibirsk is the third most populated city of all Russia. Situated on the legendary Trans-Siberian railway, Novosibirsk, capital of Siberia, is a huge industrial town, where research and education flourish, but it is also an important place for the arts. Local authorities try to showcase this side of their town, using the fame of one of their citizens: Vadim Repin. 2014 marked the ...
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A glossy Manon Lescaut in Baden-Baden

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductor Simon Rattle chose Puccini's Manon Lescaut to represent the lyrical side of their second passage in Baden-Baden's Easter Festival. Compared to last year's opening with the Enchanted Flute, it was a huge stylistic deviation, especially since it was the first time Rattle conducted an opera by the Italian composer. There can be no doubt about it any longer: the true stars of the show ...
Boris Godounov, Bolchoï, photo Damir Yusupov

Boris Godunov at home at the Bolshoi

If there is an iconic opera at the Bolshoi Theatre, which is within walking distance  of the Kremlin,  it is Boris Godunov. By its size and cost, an opera house is in itself an affair of  state. This was particularly true in the former USSR, where classical music played a crucial cultural role, and is still the case in today’s Russia at the Bolshoi Theatre, whose lavish restoration was peppered ...

Ville Matvejeff leads the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass

Orchestral concerts in Finland during the Easter season are generally dominated by performances of Bach's Passions. In this concert, the rising conducting talent Ville Matvejeff  provided a refreshing alternative, leading the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra in a varied program of Rachmaninoff, Matvejeff , and Janáček. The Isle of the Dead is one of Rachmaninoff's most atmospheric and somber scores. Inspired by a viewing of Arnold Böcklin's painting of the same name, Rachmaninoff's work evokes ...
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Rising from the abyss: Leif Segerstam with the Turku Philharmonic

Three cities often come to mind when discussing the Finnish orchestral scene: Helsinki, Lahti, and Tampere. Turku is usually left out of the discussion, but the recent appointment of Leif Segerstam as chief conductor, as well as some ambitious recent programming, may change this situation. This evening's concert would certainly fall into the ambitious category. The Viola Concerto was one of the last works that Schnittke completed before suffering his first ...

Nikolai Alexeev conducts all-Shostakovich program with the Estonian National Symphony

According to the marketing materials for this concert, this program featured the “two faces” of Shostakovich. In the suite from Korzinkina’s Adventures we find Shostakovich at his most light-hearted and witty, while the Symphony No. 4 shows a much more serious side of the composer. On the podium was Nikolai Alexeev, the former chief conductor of the Estonian National SO. The program opened with a brief six-movement suite derived from Shostakovich’s ...

Michael Francis conducts the Helsinki Philharmonic in an all-British Program

Although performances of British music are not entirely rare in Helsinki, an entire evening dedicated to mid-20th century British orchestral music is quite remarkable. Michael Francis, the current chief conductor of the Norrköping SO, led the Helsinki Philharmonic in this evening's program of Britten, Walton, and Vaughan Williams. Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem was the opening work of this concert. Commissioned in 1940 by the Japanese government to commemorate the 2600th anniversary ...
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The Sommets Musicaux Festival in Gstaad

The Sommets Musicaux festival, held in Gstaad, Switzerland, and dedicated to chamber music, was founded in 2001. It takes place during the winter season in this posh ski resort located on the linguistic border between the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. This year, the festival’s subtitle was “the two-headed eagle”: indeed, piano duos (four-hands or two keyboards) had the place of honor. There are always two concerts per day, ...
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The XXth-century US at the Folle Journée de Nantes

The audience’s rejuvenation is a direct consequence of the program, which was built around four axes: the musical roots of the new continent (traditional songs and the European legacy, with works by Foster, Ives, and Gershwin, and then Bernstein, Cage, Reich, Glass, and Adams), the United States as a land of hope (with works by European musicians who crossed the Atlantic as refugees or immigrants, such as Dvořák, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, ...
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The Ring in Geneva : a crescendo in aesthetics

With its perfect narration of the legend, the depth of its direction, and an aesthetic sometimes deliberately distressed by a Brechtian desire to expose the seams, the beautiful Die Walküre imagined by Dieter Dorn for the Grand Théâtre de Genève last November was captivating from beginning to end and created a certain eagerness for its sequel. That eagerness was fully satisfied throughout the wonderful Siegfried staged by the German director ...