Friday, August 27, 2010

Visconti's Ludwig at the Night of the Arts

Since 1989, the Night of the Arts has been celebrated as a part of the Helsinki Festival. It is an event of hundreds of art events all around the city. Tonight it is cold and the streets are not so alive with the sound of music as usually.

At Cinema Orion we have a tradition of screening extra long films on the Night of the Arts. Last year we did Ningen no joken (The Human Condition). We have screened Michelangelo Antonioni's Chung Kuo Cina, Hans Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler, ein Film über Deutschland, Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage (the six hour version), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz (it took the whole weekend). This year, it's Luchino Visconti's longest film, the four hour Ludwig, about Bavaria's fairy-tale king, the mentor of Richard Wagner (interpreted by Trevor Howard). Having seen it a few times already I just sample the beginning this time to check the gorgeous visual quality of this opulent Wagnerian epic.

After a cup of hot tea at the Corona Bar it's time to experience the rest of Leif Segerstam and the Tapiola Sinfonietta's Sibelius: 7 Symphonies project at the Helsinki University Hall. This is the original premiere hall of the symphonies save the last one, and Tapiola Sinfonietta at ca 50 players performs them at half the spread of the full symphony orchestra of ca 100 players. The feeling of the infinite density of the forest is missing, but there is a special freshness and grandeur in these arrangements and more space for single players, especially for the horns. These arrangements open up to the sky and to the horizon.

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 5 in E Flat Major. After the descent into madness in Symphony No 4 Sibelius climbs heroically to oceanic grandeur. I felt like being carried by a seasoned admiral on a sea voyage around the world.

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 6 in d minor. This interpretation was especially cherished by the Sibelius experts. A cosmic voyage with a feeling of the elements.

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 7 in C Major. Sibelius' last symphony, one of his final syntheses before his silence as a composer. In one movement only, it turns around conventions of the symphonic form. The final stage on his spirit's voyage towards the absolute.

Leif Segerstam - looking like a shaman or a Mountain King - and Tapiola Sinfonietta made this voyage glorious. The standing ovation at the end of the giant project was heartfelt. A happy audience returned to the cold night.

No comments: