Saturday, 2 December 2017

Finland 100th Birthday Gala Helsinki Suomen itsenäisyyden satavuotisjuhla

Suomen itsenäisyyden satavuotisjuhla - 100 years of Finnish Independence, celebrated in a grand gala with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (Helsingen kaupunginorkestri) conducted by Susanna Mälkki.The actual Independence Day is Wednesday, 6th December, but presumably all Finland will be partying then, with many events! So the big concert was Friday, now available for all online HERE. Wonderful programme - 100 years of Finnish music and literature. 

Sibelius, of course : Finlandia will no doubt be heard everywhere !  But here, his op 96B Autrefois for orchestra, |(1919) elegant and lyrical, evoking an idealized past. Since I don't speak Finnish, I didn't know what the speaker reciting passages from Finnish literature was saying, but he sounded passionate.  Then, three key figures in early Finnish modernism.  Ernest Pingoud (died 1942)  Profeeta, a dramatic tone poem which shares some Sibelian cragginess but is not easy to place, stylistically.  Rather better known, Väinö Raitio Fantasia estatica op 21 (1921) even more of a theatrical showpiece. Raitio (1890-1945) was even more of a modernist, clearly aware of Stravinsky and Scriabin - listen out for the plaintive bassoon and violin before the diaphanous ending, lit by harp and celeste.  Aare Merikanto's Intrada is a rousing piece, not as interesting in itself as Raitio's Fantasia, but worth hearing, given Merikanto's significance in modern Finnish repertoire. His father, Oskar Merikanto was a major figure too. After Kuningas Lear overture, Uuno Klami's colourful op 33 (1945)  came Aare Merikanto's Olympiafanfaari (Olympic Fanfare) (1939) a grand piece for a grand occasion. 
 In the second half of the concert, post-war Finnish masters, like Aukis Sallinen  Variations for Orchestra op, 8, (1963) an early work which already shows some characteristics of Sallinen's style.  Monumental forms, brightened by well defined detail, bubbling rhythms, angular shapes, a very"organic" feel.  Two readings from poets  Arto Melleri and Paavo Haavikko followed , so intriguing that it was maddening not to understand the language.  Then, Joonas Kokkonen Il paesaggio (1987)  brooding and mysterious.  In contrast, Jouni Kaipainen's Millennium Fanfare, big on brass and percussion, vivid shapes. strong forward thrust and energy.  The high point, Esa-Pekka Salonen's Helix (2005) : woodwinds, and contrabassoon rising above grumbling timpani, then brass and strings. A steady pulse, throbbing purposefully.  Double themes, wrapping around each other on different levels with many variations.   A lot is happening here, but with increasing liveliness.  the structure is disciplined. The pace speeds up and figures seem to reach outwards and upwards. Eventually the shapes shatter into multiple lines of inventiveness, faster and faster : the glory of life ! 

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