Friday, September 02, 2011

Musiikkitalo / Helsinki Music Centre: Opening Concerts

Helsinki Music Centre: Opening Concerts. 2 Sep 2011. Hosted by Helena Hiilivirta, Director of the Helsinki Music Centre.

Opening ensemble
Jean Sibelius: Finlandia. The hymn was sung to the lyrics by V.A. Koskenniemi. - Orchestra: Winds and percussion players from the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and strings from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. - Choir: the Sibelius Academy Choir of students, graduates, and members of staff, joined by other singers from the Helsinki region, Savonlinna, and elsewhere, trained by Matti Hyökki. - Conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (HKO)
Jean Sibelius: Tapiola. - Orchestra: The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (HKO = Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri). - Conductor: John Storgårds.
Jean Sibelius: "Den första kyssen" [The First Kiss]
Jean Sibelius: "Illalle"[To the Evening]
Jean Sibelius: "Var det en dröm"[Was It a Dream]
Soprano: Soile Isokoski. - Orchestra: The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. - Conductor: John Storgårds.
Encore:  Oskar Merikanto: "Kun päivä paistaa" [When the Sun Shines]

The Sibelius Academy
The Sibelius Academy Cavalcade: Hymnus
Kristiina Ilmonen: Paimensäveliä Inkeristä / Pastoral tunes from Ingria. Improvisation on the flute (pitkähuilu).
Kansanlaulajat / The Folk Singers: Väinämöisen soitto / Väinämöinen Makes Music
Johannes Piirto: Virta / The River (2011). Premiere on a piano.
Pimeydestä valoon / From Darkness to Light (2011). Premiere. Electronics: James Andrean, Visa Kuoppala. - HERD: Sanctuary, composer: Mikko Pellinen, lyrics: Aili Ikonen.
Veli-Matti Puumala: ohuesti niin kuin kaikki tässä, tai hieman runsaammin (2011). Premiere. Poem: Harry Salmenniemi. Sibelius-Akatemian Vokaaliyhtye / The Sibelius Academy Vocal Ensemble, conductor: Matti Hyökki.
Julius Klengel: Hymnus op. 57 (1920). Cello choir led by Martti Rousi and Hannu Kiiski. 36 cellists.
A greeting from Gustav Djupsjöbacka, rector of the Sibelius Academy

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO)
Igor Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps (Весна священная), Tableaux de la Russie païenne en deux parties. - Orchestra: The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. - Conductor: Sakari Oramo.

A historical week in Finnish culture: The Helsinki Music Centre opened 177 years after Fredrik Pacius launched high level music culture in Finland. Before this there has not been a really good concert hall for a full symphony orchestra in Helsinki (in other Finnish cities the situation has been better).

I am not a concert goer (my evenings are already too full with cinema related activities), so I'm not qualified to review this evening. Already in the spring, at the last cinema concert at the Finlandia Hall, I heard from the musicians in the back room that they love the acoustics of the new Music Centre. Since then I have heard of cases of musicians crying of joy having gotten to play there.

Tonight at the Music Centre I had the opportunity to meet the experts Heikki Riikonen, Susanna Välimäki, and Jorma Panula. The verdict was unanimous: this is a good one. Mr. Panula ranks Amsterdam, Vienna and certain Japanese halls at the top, and this is not yet there. The music will get even better when the players learn to play at the new Helsinki hall. They can now forget the tricks with which they made the sound at the Finlandia Hall acceptable. There will be a new joy of music.

My tickets were at the top balcony behind the conductor, which was only fair, and these seats had actually privileges. I was facing the flute soloist wandering on the opposite balcony. And I could watch each player of the orchestras from above better than the conductor himself.

The music programme consisted mainly of the best-known selections, and the logic was clear: everybody could judge how these well-known works sounded in the new circumstances and make comparisons to how it has been elsewhere. But there were also three premieres of new music in the Sibelius Academy section.

For me, the supreme experience tonight was Soile Isokoski. The songs sung by her were well-known. I usually listen to them (or sing myself in the shower) at home. As a rule, there is only a pianist, but now there was the HKO. I much prefer using just the piano in these songs, but I understand the point today which was to raise the challenge for the acoustics.

The Music Centre is 20 meters high, and the amphitheatre seats 1700. Soile Isokoski's noble voice filled the room without amplification. It rose to our highest balcony despite the fact that I was listening behind her back and despite the fact that she was backed by a symphony orchestra.

I learned something new about the songs of Sibelius, also remembering our summer trip to the Koli mountain, a favourite inspiration place of Sibelius. This is music that is meant to rise to the heights. "Ääni, joka kohoaa kirkkaana korkeuksiin", I kept thinking, and I cannot translate this well. I cannot even compare it with anything else, but this was truly great Sibelius singing.

The first RSO cinema concerts at the Helsinki Music Centre:
28 Oct 2011 Elämän maantiellä / The Highway of Life, premiere of the music by Yrjö Hjelt, conducted by Ralf Kircher.
16 March 2012 Metropolis, the 2010 restoration of the Fritz Lang movie, the original score by Gottfried Huppertz arranged and conducted by Frank Strobel.

The lyrics to the song "Den första kyssen" [The First Kiss] are beyond the jump break:
J.L. Runeberg: Den första kyssen

På silvermolnets kant satt aftonstjärnan
Från lundens skymning frågte henne tärnan:
"Säg, aftonstjärna, vad i himlen tänkes,
När första kyssen åt en älskling skänkes?"

Och himlens blyga dotter hördes svara:
"På jorden blickar ljusets änglaskara,
Och ser sin egen sällhet speglad åter;
Blott döden vänder ögat bort... och gråter."

Idyll och epigram 2 (1870)

This poem may be impossible to translate. Also the Finnish translation by O. Manninen has lost all of the original flavour.

The girl asks the evening star what they think in heaven about her first kiss. The answer is that the celestial angel swarm sees their own bliss reflected. But death turns its eye away and cries.

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