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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 ...
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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 ...
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John Storgårds talks about his new Sibelius symphony cycle with the BBC Philharmonic

ResMusica: Although this is not a new symphony cycle of Brahms, Beethoven, or even Mahler, now we have new symphony cycle of Sibelius. Many of your Finnish colleagues have already recorded these works, sometimes more than once. What is it about these works which explains their timeless appeal? Why do people keep coming back to them? John Storgårds: I think that there is still so much to be found in his ...

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 ...
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The Pasta mystery

This new hefty tome by Kenneth Stern, like Opera In America, A Cultural History, by John Dizkes, reviewed here a few weeks ago, belongs to what one might call the biographical field (school? coterie?) of Anglo-Saxon literary criticism. This Giuditta Pasta, A Life On The Lyric Stage, is therefore, as it should be, and according to the rules of the genre, dense, serious, meticulous--even academic--filled with those thousand skillfully listed details ...

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 ...

Sakari Oramo, conductor

ResMusica: You began your career as a violinist, as concertmaster of the Finnish RSO, and now you are conducting the top orchestras of the world. Did you always envision conducting to be part of your artistic journey? How did you make this transition from the first chair to the podium? Sakari Oramo: I made my public conducting debut at the age of 11 on Finnish TV, conducting a folk song arrangement ...

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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Kalevi Aho continues his world-music explorations

After Osmo Vänskä became music director of the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003, it was not unexpected that he would commission a work from Aho. The composer writes that he was asked to provide a piece of approximately 15-20 minutes in length, would be suitable as an opener for tour programs, and should feature every member of the orchestra. Minea is the result of this commission and is part of the composer's ...
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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 ...
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Oslo Philharmonic plays Mahler’s sixth symphony in Helsinki

Jukka-Pekka Saraste is a familiar presence in the Helsinki music scene, regularly guest conducting both the Helsinki Philharmonic and Finnish RSO. On this evening's concert, however, Saraste was not on the podium with a local band but instead brought the Oslo Philharmonic, showcasing the results of his recently concluded tenure with this ensemble. This orchestra is sometimes called the best in the Nordic countries, and the music-making on display this evening ...

Interview with Philip Glass

ResMusica : In 1976, Einstein on the Beach, and in 2013, The Lost. Mr. Glass, when composing your first opera, did you know that twenty-four others would follow? Philip Glass: (Laughs.) No. No, no . . . And there soon will be another one! In 2013, The Lost (Spur der Verrirten) was premiered, but so was The Perfect American. I composed those two operas at the same time. (Laughs.) One was ...

Gustavo Dudamel conducts Berlioz’s Requiem in Notre-Dame de Paris

A performance of Berlioz’s Requiem is always a special occasion, because of the number of people involved (almost four hundred), the space required for effective spatialization of the four different brass orchestras, and the expressiveness of the score, which was written a few years after the Symphonie Fantastique by a thirty-four-year-old visionary genius. In the choir at Notre-Dame de Paris, genius conductor Gustavo Dudamel mastered the venue’s acoustics while leading ...
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Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart in Lyon

In the interview he gave to ResMusica about his opera A Dog's Heart, Alexander Raskatov insisted on two things: its (pessimistic) message about our civilization's evolution, and its refusal—unusual in France—of working on musical language as an end in itself. The choice of a fantastic, satirical short story by Mikhail Bulgakov and of the atmosphere of 1920s USSR immediately relates Cœur de chien to Shostakovich’s The Nose, but this is ...
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Alexander Kniazev performs Miaskovsky’s Cello Concerto

The mid-twentieth century cello concerto is dominated by two great Russian works: the Sinfonia Concertante of Prokofiev and the first cello concerto of Shostakovich. Both works feature fiendishly difficult solo parts and place the soloist in the traditional concerto role of hero or protagonist. On this concert, the Russian cellist Alexander Kniazev presented the infrequently performed cello concerto of Miaskovsky, demonstrating its worthiness as a viable alternative to the Prokofiev ...
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Opera in America, a cultural history

Opera in America, a cultural history, by John Dizikes, can be read simultaneously as a pictorial work (simply because its numerous illustrations play a fundamental role in the text, are integral to it, and thereby make details stand out); as a work of fiction (because very often, the narrative and its photos take over the discussion); as an economic, social, and cultural study of America over the course of its ...
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Pehr Henrik Nordgren at 70

Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944-2008) was a unique voice in Finnish music. Influenced by both Japanese and Finnish folk music, as well as Shostakovich, Nordgren never achieved the same international recognition as his younger Finnish colleagues, such as Aho, Saariaho, Salonen, and Lindberg. In honor of Nordgren’s 70th birthday, the Finnish RSO organized both a chamber music and orchestral concert featuring his music. The chamber music program began with the Ritornello for ...
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Sebastian Fagerlund, composer

ResMusica: What was your first encounter with classical music? Sebastian Fagerlund: I was born in a small archipelago town in the southwest of Finland called Pargas. There was not much classical music or high culture present in the city, but in my family classical music was often listened to and discussed. My parents took me from a very early age to symphony concerts, for example in the nearest larger town called Turku. ...
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Accessible Magnus Lindberg, the New York edition

Magnus Lindberg raised some eyebrows when he was appointed composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic for the seasons 2009-11 (extended to 2012). This move was interpreted by many that the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert would now take new music seriously, which was arguably neglected under the relatively conservative tenures of Kurt Masur and Lorin Maazel.  The three works featured on this disc are a document of the Lindberg-NY ...
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A sea journey with Leif Segerstam

With a population of just over 5 million, Finland can boast of having a disproportionately large number of orchestras with international reputations. This includes the orchestras of Tampere and Lahti, as well as the three full-time bands found in Helsinki. While the former capital city of Turku also has a full-time symphony orchestra, this group does not enjoy the same visibility and recognition as its peers. The Finnish conductor and ...
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Chamber Music Week in Elmau

Located in Bavaria near the Austrian border, the Castle of Elmau is well- known in the world of classical music. Since the 1950s, it has become a famous concert hall, due to the renowned quality of its acoustics. Passing through the region, Benjamin Britten discovered and instantly fell in love with the site and in 1959, with his partner Peter Pears, he founded a British-German Chamber Music festival there. In ...