In just over a month’s time, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi will be touring Sweden, Germany and Italy with a new, folk-inspired programme of music from Estonia and Russia. ‘Baltic Folk’, the orchestra’s second tour of 2017, begins on 19 August in Visby, on the Swedish island of Gotland. The orchestra then performs at the Rheingau Music Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany, on 20 August, before concluding the tour on 23 August with a performance at the Merano Music Festival in Merano, northern Italy.
The music of ‘Baltic Folk’ has a strong Russian focus. In Stravinsky’s folktale-inspired The Firebird and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, we present two of the best-loved orchestral works of the early 20th century, both of which reveal their Russian essence in contrasting ways. In his groundbreaking ballet Stravinsky dazzles us with brilliant colours, the vitality of Russian folk music, and the magic of the mythical Firebird. And in one of the most romantic piano concertos ever written, Rachmaninoff bares his soul in dramatic music rich in Slavic melancholy.
The ‘Baltic Folk’ programme begins, however, in the altogether different sound world of Arvo Pärt, the celebrated Estonian composer whose music is both deeply spiritual and emotionally direct. His contemplative, hymn-like Swansong is an orchestration of an earlier choral composition, ‘Littlemore Tractus’, in which Pärt set words from a sermon that the influential theologian John Henry Newman preached in 1843 in the English village of Littlemore.
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic will perform The Firebird in its 1945 orchestral suite version, and will make a daring shift from convention by playing the work entirely from memory. Kristjan sees this approach as an evolution in how musicians express themselves as artists. ‘Performing The Firebird from memory is all about chemistry and communication,’ he says. ‘It should feel like the players are improvising music that they have known for a long time.’
Joining the orchestra to perform Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, a work that Kristjan calls ‘the most nostalgic, the most Russian-themed concerto ever’, will be the 15-year-old Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev, one of the most exciting talents of his generation. Kristjan says of his new collaborator: ‘Alexander is already a rising star in Russia and has been acclaimed by some of the country’s greatest musicians. I am pleased that we can introduce him to a wider international audience.’
We are delighted to be making return visits to both the Rheingau and Merano festivals, which welcome us back after previous appearances in 2014 (in Wiesbaden) and 2011 (in Merano). And Visby is a special place for us, not just because the island of Gotland is such a beautiful natural environment but also because Visby is where the original idea for the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic was born ten years ago, in a concert of a project orchestra called the Baltic Youth Orchestra.
Find out more about ‘Baltic Folk’ and book tickets here.
Baltic Folk Tour 2017
Saturday, 19 August 2017, 7.00 pm
Visby (Congress Hall Wisby Strand, Island of Gotland), Sweden
Sunday, 20 August, 7.00 pm
Rheingau Music Festival, Wiesbaden (Kursaal), Germany
Wednesday, 23 August, 8.30 pm
Merano Music Festival, Merano (Kursaal), Italy
Baltic Sea Philharmonic
Arvo Pärt: Swansong (Littlemore Tractus) for orchestra
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird (1945)