New Baltic Sea Philharmonic album Nutcracker, recorded for Sony Classical completely from memory, released on 2 December 2022

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s new Nutcracker album for Sony Classical, which the orchestra recorded completely from memory, will be released on 2 December. Kristjan Järvi conducts his own arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s final ballet as a Dramatic Symphony. This fresh and imaginative reworking revitalises Nutcracker’s most popular dances and lets the brilliance and inventiveness of the ballet’s less familiar numbers shine through. The musicians of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic recorded this new version of Nutcracker entirely by heart in Tallinn in September 2022, at the end of their ‘Meresillad’ tour of Germany and Estonia. As well as releasing the complete album on 2 December, Sony will release two singles and one focus track showcasing celebrated scenes from the ballet – ‘Coffee: Arabian Dance’ (4 November), ‘Evergreen Forest in Winter’ (18 November) and ‘Overture’ (2 December).

From ballet to Dramatic Symphony
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s new Nutcracker joins Järvi’s previous Tchaikovsky releases on Sony – The Snow Maiden, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty – in revitalising great theatrical pieces for contemporary audiences. Järvi says: ‘There is a tendency today to see classical music as some kind of precious relic that has to be treated with white gloves, almost with an archaeologist’s care, and the idea of even thinking about arranging a piece is somehow bad. But making arrangements, especially of theatre music, used to be much more prevalent, with composers playing around with new music and popularising it, as a way of making it part of mainstream culture.’ With his Nutcracker arrangement, Järvi wanted to give some of Tchaikovsky’s most well-known numbers a context that shows there is more great music in this celebrated ballet.  ‘When creating this Dramatic Symphony version, I didn’t make musical choices according to the popularity of certain movements. Instead my choices were based on what material and movements I thought would be most interesting and riveting to listen to in sequence. I wanted music that would hold the listener’s attention throughout, so I reorchestrated and rewrote some elements, and created new transitions’, he continues.

Recording Nutcracker from memory
The Estonian Public Broadcasting Studio 1 in Tallinn where Nutcracker was recorded was set up to recreate the atmosphere of the orchestra’s celebrated live concerts, in which the musicians play the entire programme from memory and create a unique energy. Subtle stage lighting, a smoke machine, decorations and lounge furniture gave the studio a club concert vibe. With no music stands, the musicians were mostly standing up, spread out and not in their sections, free to move and even dance to the music. Gertrud Leopard, an Estonian percussionist in the orchestra who was familiar with the studio in Tallinn, having recorded there twice before, says: ‘Recording from memory is a unique experience for me. It means I can focus more on the music, without having to concentrate on the score. With the special atmosphere in the studio, it really feels like we are performing and we are building a unique connection within the orchestra.’

That connection extends to the creative exchange with conductor Kristjan Järvi. Blessed with the studio time to allow experiments with the smallest of details in his arrangement, Järvi frequently invited the musicians to join him in the sound engineer’s booth to listen back to takes and talk about adjustments in interpretation, tempo or dynamics. Järvi says: ‘The beauty of working with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic is that we have the time to experiment, to try out changes to what’s written and see if they improve the musical results. Normally with an orchestra this is simply not possible because everybody’s time is so precious. In this sense, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic is truly an ensemble of co-creators, as opposed to an ensemble of musical executioners.’

A growing Sony Classical discography
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s new Nutcracker album joins the orchestra’s burgeoning discography on Sony Classical. The orchestra and Kristjan Järvi’s first recording for the label was The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure, an arrangement for orchestra of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (2016). An album of Stravinsky and Glass violin concertos (2020) featured the young Swiss violinist David Nebel in his debut concerto recording, with Järvi conducting the Baltic Sea Philharmonic in Stravinsky’s neoclassical Violin Concerto in D major and the London Symphony Orchestra in Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Gramophone praised Nebel’s interpretation of the Stravinsky and the energetic playing of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, with the magazine’s reviewer concluding: ‘This is a tremendously impressive debut album, and the Stravinsky performance is among the very best.’ The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty arranged by Järvi as a Dramatic Symphony (2020) received rave reviews in Germany and Sweden and was nominated for an OPUS Klassik award in 2021.

Listen to the first single ‘Coffee: Arabian Dance’ here

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Full houses and standing ovations greet Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Meresillad’ performances in Germany and Estonia

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi received a rapturous reception at all three concerts on their ‘Meresillad’ tour of Germany and Estonia (15–21 September). Playing to sold-out houses in Eisenach, Peenemünde and Tallinn, the orchestra thrilled a combined audience of around 2,600 concert-goers with a programme that featured a celebration of Estonian music (‘Meresillad’ means ‘sea bridges’ in Estonian) and a new Dramatic Symphony arrangement by Kristjan Järvi of Tchaikovsky’s evergreen Nutcracker ballet. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic performed the complete 90-minute ‘Meresillad’ programme from memory, as one uninterrupted flow of music, with no intermission. Atmospheric lighting design and bespoke concert outfits highlighted the musical storytelling approach of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and enhanced the visual spectacle of the musicians playing, moving, dancing, and even at times singing on stage.

The orchestra, travelling as an ensemble of 67 musicians, began the ‘Meresillad’ tour on 15 September in the Thuringian town of Eisenach, birthplace of J.S. Bach. Ahead of its debut at the Landestheater Eisenach in front of an audience of 500 concert-goers, the orchestra gave a pop-up concert for 250 pupils at the town’s Geschwister-Scholl-Schule. On 17 September the Baltic Sea Philharmonic opened the Usedom Music Festival, wowing 1,200 concert-goers in Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, the orchestra’s spiritual home and the place where it was founded in 2008. For the final ‘Meresillad’ concert, the musicians journeyed to Tallinn, Kristjan Järvi’s birthplace and home city, where they performed for an audience of 900 at the Estonia Concert Hall on 21 September.

Estonian composers past and present, and a beloved ballet reimagined
In a programme dedicated to Estonia, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic featured works by two of the country’s most celebrated 20th-century composers in the shape of Jan Rääts’ Concerto for Chamber Orchestra No. 1 (first movement) and Eduard Tubin’s ‘Setu Tants’ from his Estonian Dance Suite. The orchestra opened with Kristjan Järvi’s Sibelius-inspired Ascending Swans and closed the programme in rousing style with another contemporary Estonian work, Tabu-tabu by Liis Jürgens, a harpist in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. Composed especially for the orchestra, and commissioned by the Baltic Sea Music Education Foundation, Tabu-tabu is an example of the orchestra empowering its musicians as creators, collaborators and innovators. The piece was composed at the beginning of this year during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and at the same time recalls the Cold War period in Estonia. Jürgens says: ‘I chose “Tabu”, the Polynesian word for things that must not be spoken about, because there was a time in Estonia when people were not allowed to speak freely, when things that were important to people, for example Christianity or Estonian identity, were shrouded in silence. There were simply many taboos.’ With its colourful percussion and driving rhythms, and with conductor Kristjan Järvi marshalling the musicians and the audience with a shaman drum in his hand,  Tabu-tabu was enthusiastically received at all three concerts. In Tallinn the piece was performed with special guest Meister Jaan playing the jaw harp.

Alongside the Estonian works on the ‘Meresillad’ programme was Kristjan Järvi’s new Dramatic Symphony version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, the great Russian composer’s final ballet which has long been a beloved seasonal spectacle. As with his previous reworkings of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, Järvi’s arrangement showcases all the quintessential colour and wonder of Tchaikovsky’s theatre music. The Nutcracker Dramatic Symphony received its world premiere in Eisenach and brought standing ovations for the orchestra even during the concert. Reviewing the Usedom Music Festival performance for the Ostsee Zeitung, Cornelia Meerkatz described Järvi’s Nutcracker reworking as ‘a Baltic Sea Philharmonic version of this impeccable masterpiece. Järvi took on the role of the Nutcracker or Mouse King himself, leaping in the air or crouching down. And from the orchestra there was pure joy of playing. The musicians danced, laughed and even sang. Every note was a feast for the ears.’

See performance shots and behind-the-scenes photos from the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Meresillad’ tour on Facebook and Instagram

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Baltic Sea Philharmonic thrills Birgitta Festival audience in Tallinn with immersive concert experience ‘The Tempest’

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic made a thrilling debut at the Birgitta Festival, Estonia’s annual music theatre festival, on 12 August. The orchestra and its conductor Kristjan Järvi presented their unique take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, performing Järvi’s own arrangement of Sibelius’s masterful theatre music alongside other works by Sibelius, Järvi and Baltic Sea Philharmonic harpist Liis Jürgens. The orchestra performed the entire programme from memory and without intermission. With no music stands on stage, the musicians were free to move and interact with each other, and the dynamic choreography, with players changing places, moving across the stage and among the audience, dancing and play-fighting, all underscored the drama of Shakespeare’s play. The immersive performance also featured atmospheric lighting and sound design, as well as original projection art. The audio-visual concept was done by Sunbeam Productions.

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic collaborated in The Tempest with soloist Mari Meentalo on the Estonian bagpipes. She also had a striking role in Kristjan Järvi’s Midnight Sun and in addition she played the mouth harp in Jürgens’ The Dream of Tabu-tabu. The orchestra’s programme included another celebrated work by Sibelius in the shape of his 1895 tone poem The Swan of Tuonela from The Lemminkaïnen Suite, and five other pieces by Kristjan Järvi – Life Lives Ethereal, Frozen Tears, Runic Prayer, Aurora and Ascending Swans, which is based on the Song of Praise from Sibelius’s Swanwhite Suite.

The Birgitta Festival concert, which took place in the ruins of the 15th-century Pirita convent in Tallinn, was sold out, with around 850 people in the audience. It came a month after the Baltic Sea Philharmonic made a memorable debut at Estonia’s Pärnu Music Festival, performing four concerts in as many days. In a 2022 season focused on Estonia, the orchestra will return to Tallinn next month as part of its ‘Meresillad’ tour of Germany and Estonia (15–21 September). This tour, the Estonian language title of which translates as ‘sea bridges’, will celebrate Estonia and also the deep connections between the countries of the Baltic Sea region. The programme includes music by Estonian composers past and present, with works by Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Jaan Rääts (1932–2020) and Liis Jürgens. It also features Kristjan Järvi’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker as a Dramatic Symphony, a work which completes Järvi’s trilogy of adaptations of the Russian composer’s ballets, after Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The ‘Meresillad’ tour will take the orchestra to Eisenach (15 September) and the Usedom Music Festival (17 September) before the tour concludes in Tallinn on 21 September with a concert at the Estonia Concert Hall.

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BALTIC SEA PHILHARMONIC MAKES SPECTACULAR DEBUT AT PÄRNU MUSIC FESTIVAL IN ESTONIA

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic made a memorable debut at the Pärnu Music Festival in Estonia this month, performing four concerts in as many days. This year’s 12th edition of the festival (13–22 July) in the seaside resort town of Pärnu is celebrating the 85th birthday of Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi, who conducted the festival’s opening concert. The Järvi family have been reunited at the Pärnu Music Festival, with Paavo Järvi conducting the Estonian Festival Orchestra and Kristjan Järvi conducting the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. In addition to performing a spectacular ‘Nordic Amazonia’ concert on 15 July, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic gave three masterclass concerts in Laulasmaa, Tallinn and Pärnu, with conducting students from the Järvi Academy.

Big birthdays and budding conductors
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Nordic Amazonia’ concert experience at the sold-out Pärnu Concert Hall was a double celebration, marking both the 85th birthday of American minimalist Philip Glass and the 50th birthday of Kristjan Järvi, the orchestra’s Founding Conductor and Artistic Director. Kristjan conducted the ensemble of 49 musicians in a programme comprising Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia and pieces by Kristjan from his 2020 album Nordic Escapes, including Nebula, Aurora and In Horizons. The orchestra was joined by Swiss violinist David Nebel, and the musicians performed the music in signature Baltic Sea Philharmonic style – completely from memory, and as a single continuous flow of music with no intermission. Atmospheric lighting, sound design and choreography created an electrifying concert experience, with the musicians moving and dancing on stage and finally exiting the hall still dancing amid standing ovations from the excited audience. The concert was livestreamed and is available to watch on Pärnu Music Festival TV.

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic also had an important role at the Pärnu Music Festival supporting the education of young musicians selected for the Järvi Academy, which is an inseparable part of the festival. The international group of ten students on this year’s Järvi Academy conducting course had coaching sessions with Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Kristjan Järvi and Leonid Grin, and took part in three Masterclass Concerts with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. The first of these was at the Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa on 12 July, and featured music by the renowned Estonian composer. Two more masterclass concerts with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic took place in Tallinn (12 July) and Pärnu (14 July), both featuring music by Ravel, Stravinsky and Bartók. All three concerts were livestreamed.

Returning to Estonia in August and September
Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic will be back in Tallinn on 12 August for the orchestra’s debut at the Birgitta Festival, a music theatre festival that was first held in 2005. At an open-air concert in the historic ruins of the Pirita Convent, the orchestra will perform Kristjan’s suite from Sibelius’s masterful theatre music for The Tempest by William Shakespeare. In a performance co-created with the orchestra members, the musicians will be performing both music and text, and the concert will be accompanied by special lighting and sound design. As well as the music from The Tempest, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic will also perform pieces by Kristjan, including Midnight Sun, Aurora and Frozen Tears.

Tallinn is also the final destination on the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Meresillad’ tour of Germany and Estonia (15–21 September). The tour, the Estonian language title of which translates as ‘sea bridges’, celebrates Estonia, and the tour programme includes music by Estonian composers past and present, with works by Eduard Tubin (1905–1982) and Jaan Rääts (1932–2020) as well as Liis Jürgens, who is a harpist in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. The programme will also feature Kristjan Järvi’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker as a Dramatic Symphony. This completes his trilogy of reworkings of the Russian composer’s ballets, after Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The ‘Meresillad’ tour will conclude in Tallinn on 21 September with a concert at the Estonia Concert Hall.

Watch the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Nordic Amazonia’ concert and all three Järvi Academy concerts now on Pärnu Music Festival TV

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BALTIC SEA PHILHARMONIC TO MAKE DEBUT AT PÄRNU MUSIC FESTIVAL IN JULY

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic will make its debut at the Pärnu Music Festival in Estonia in July. This year’s festival in the seaside resort town of Pärnu is celebrating the 85th birthday of Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi, who will conduct the opening concert of the festival. The Järvi family will be reunited at the festival, as Paavo Järvi conducts the Estonian Festival Orchestra and Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic give four concerts in as many days. Both Järvi brothers also have significant birthdays this year, with Kristjan turning 50 in June and Paavo turning 60 in December.

Celebration and education

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic will be supporting the education of young musicians selected for the Järvi Academy, which is an inseparable part of the Pärnu Music Festival. Students on this year’s Järvi Academy Conducting course will have coaching sessions with Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Kristjan Järvi and Leonid Grin, and will take part in three Masterclass Concerts with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. The first of these is at the Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa on 12 July, and will feature music by the renowned Estonian composer. Two more masterclass concerts with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic will take place in Tallinn (12 July) and Pärnu (14 July), both featuring music by Ravel, Stravinsky and Bartók.

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s main festival concert with Kristjan Järvi in Pärnu on 15 July has the theme Nordic Amazonia and will feature Aguas da Amazonia by Philip Glass and pieces by Kristjan Järvi from his album Nordic Escapes, which was released on BMG/Modern Recordings in 2020 including Aurora and Nebula. The orchestra will be joined by Swiss violinist David Nebel, who recorded both Aurora and Nebula for the Nordic Escapes album. The ‘Nordic Amazonia’ concert will be performed in signature Baltic Sea Philharmonic style, completely from memory, and as one flow of music with no breaks or interval. The concert will celebrate the 85th birthday (in January this year) of Philip Glass and the 50th birthday of Kristjan Järvi.

 

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BALTIC SEA PHILHARMONIC SALUTES KRISTJAN JÄRVI ON HIS 50TH BIRTHDAY

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic sends its warmest congratulations to Founding Conductor and Music Director Kristjan Järvi as he turns 50 on 13 June. It is almost exactly 14 years since Kristjan conducted the orchestra’s first ever concert, at the Great Guild in Riga on 4 June 2008, and from that moment onwards he has shaped the ensemble’s reputation as a powerful engine of innovation, creative freedom and risk-taking on the international orchestral scene. Through the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, a generation of musicians has been inspired to step out of their comfort zone and embrace freedom and fearlessness, both in their playing and as a wider creative mindset. Kristjan has instilled in the orchestra musicians a collective spirit of self-discovery, encouraging their passion and potential in areas such as memorisation, digital production and music creation.

Kristjan has shown the members of the orchestra, and audiences around the world, that on the musical stage anything is possible, from performing entire concert programmes from memory to using cutting-edge lighting design and digital soundscapes to transform the concert experience. And as a recording artist he is as prolific and eclectic at the age of 50 as he ever has been, releasing albums of Tchaikovsky and Max Richter with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, mixing and producing the orchestra’s ‘Musical Chain’ series of singles and music videos, releasing the first album of his original compositions, and establishing his own record label, all in the last two years.

With his individual and eclectic programming, Kristjan has honoured the musical culture of the Baltic Sea region and represented the multinational membership of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. He has also built bridges between the old and the new, whether that’s reimagining classic Tchaikovsky ballets for the 21st century, or juxtaposing Baroque masterpieces with contemporary Minimalism, or turning an orchestra into a giant rock band, as when the Baltic Sea Philharmonic played with the indie group Bastille at the Elbphilharmonie.

From all musicians and the entire team at the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, happy birthday Kristjan!

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Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians concluded historic residency of the New York Philharmonic at the Usedom Music Festival

With two chamber music concerts in Wolgast and in the Baltic Sea resort Heringsdorf, musicians of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic ended the exclusive European residency of the US orchestra at the Usedom Music Festival. The world-renowned US orchestra and its music director Jaap van Zweden gave three concerts in Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom from 20–22 May. The opening concert of the residency featured twelve players from the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, who performed ‘Side by Side’ with the New York Philharmonic in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. Musicians from both orchestras – five from the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and six from the New York Philharmonic – also came together for two chamber music concerts on 23 and 24 May performing Barber’s Summer Music and Brahms’s String Sextet No. 2.

A unique collaboration in a perfect setting
The programme for these chamber music concerts was devised by the New York Philharmonic and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic in collaboration. The playful, dreamy Summer Music by American composer Samuel Barber, in which the instruments intertwined imaginatively in many voices, was followed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s humorous Horn Quintet in E-flat Major KV 407. In the second part of the atmospheric concerts, the audience heard the second String Sextet by German composer Johannes Brahms, which holds a cryptogram as a reminder of Brahms’s childhood love.

For the musicians of both orchestras, the collaboration was an enriching and gratifying experience. Richard Deane, principal horn player of the New York Philharmonic, said: ‘The whole Usedom Music Festival was great fun. And there were great synergies between the musicians. The musicians of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic wanted to learn, and we also learned a lot and got to know different styles. We became friends and had a great time.’ Alexey Mikhaylenko, clarinettist and senior musician of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, was surprised by the way of playing and the convincing technical quality of the New York Philharmonic: ‘Sitting and playing inside of the NYPhil is comparable to sitting in a space craft – a perfectly organised machine, which goes forward without any delays and with visual lightness of performing.’ For Viktoria Kassel, an oboist with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, unforgettable memories are linked to the collaboration: ‘I learned so much and met so many wonderful new people and musicians, I would never want to miss this experience. I am impressed by how perfectly yet realistically the musicians of the New Yorker Philharmonic make music. It’s not about the individuals, it’s about the whole, about the music and about offering the audience a special kind of concert experience. It reminds me a lot of our own orchestra, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic – maybe that’s why the collaboration worked so well straight away.’

Playing ‘Side by Side’ with the New York Philharmonic marked the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s first performance collaboration with such an illustrious world-class orchestra. The Usedom Music Festival has been the natural host for this coming together, as the Baltic Sea Philharmonic was founded at the festival in 2008 and considers Usedom its birthplace and its home beside the Baltic Sea. Usedom also connects the two orchestras, through the late maestro Kurt Masur. The great German conductor became the first patron of the Usedom Music Festival during his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, and one of his last concerts was with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic in Peenemünde at the 2013 Usedom Music Festival. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic were among a group of six international orchestras that co-commissioned Steve Reich’s 2018 Music for Ensemble and Orchestra; the Baltic Sea Philharmonic gave the German premiere of the piece in September 2019 at the Usedom Music Festival, and the New York Philharmonic gave the New York premiere in December 2019.

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BALTIC SEA PHILHARMONIC EMPOWERS ITS MUSICIANS TO EXPLORE NEW CREATIVE PATH WITH ITS ‘MUSICAL CHAIN – PRODUCERS EDITION’

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic today releases a new single in its ‘Musical Chain’ series, Hollow in the tree. Composed by orchestra members Mintautas Kriščiūnas and Zuzanna Wąsiewicz, the track is out now on Estonian independent label nEscapes. An accompanying music video, produced and directed by another member of the orchestra, Ludwig Angerhöfer, is available to watch on the orchestra’s social media channels. An engaging fusion of electronic textures and orchestral soundscapes, the music for Hollow in the tree was recorded by the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi on the island of Usedom in September 2021. Further tracks written and produced by Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians as part of the ‘Producers Edition’, an expansion of the ‘Musical Chain’ series, will be released on nEscapes later in 2022 with accompanying music videos.

Empowering creativity and collaboration

The ‘Musical Chain’ series of collaborative music videos launched in July 2020 as a way of bringing Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians together virtually during the pandemic lockdowns and connecting them with other artists and video producers. In the summer of 2021 the project was extended with the ‘Producers Edition’, which invited members of the orchestra to create their own music and videos, and gave them the opportunity to showcase their talents as composers, producers, scriptwriters, sound engineers and videographers. After submitting ideas for music and video projects, selected musicians collaborated in small teams to compose and produce their tracks and bring their stories alive on video. At a dedicated recording session on Usedom, the composers worked with Kristjan Järvi and professional sound engineers to record their creations. The musicians selected to produce and direct films for the music tracks worked under the guidance of professional videographers. Through the ‘Producers Edition’, members of the orchestra have learned new skills and tools and developed collaborative ways of working, as well as growing their entrepreneurial potential.

Behind the scenes

With Hollow in the tree, Lithuanian violist Mintautas Kriščiūnas and Polish harpist Zuzanna Wąsiewicz have created a compelling union of electronic music, layered acoustic harp and the sound of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. They describe the piece as reflecting the human condition in an ever-changing modern world in which nature struggles to survive in the face of mechanical and destructive human development. The conflict between these two forces comes through in the climax of the piece, but throughout the work the peace and strength of nature offers a constant flow and drive, as well as a sense of hope.

For Wąsiewicz, Hollow in the tree was a departure from composing purely acoustic music. ‘This project was the first time I had worked with electronics and effects,’ she says. ‘It’s also the first work I’ve ever had released, so I’m very excited.’ Kriščiūnas is no stranger to releasing his own music but jumped at the chance to be part of the ‘Producers Edition’. ‘I’ve learned so much already as a member of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic,’ he says. ‘It’s been a great opportunity to grow as a musician, so I had no hesitation to join this project.’

German tuba player Ludwig Angerhöfer responded to the flow and forward motion of the Hollow in the tree music with a video that captures the power of nature, and especially the energy of water, but also showcases the musicians of the orchestra. He filmed in five countries, including Latvia, where one location was Europe’s widest waterfall, and he also shot under water. He says: ‘As a tuba player, I’m used to being at the back of the orchestra, providing the fundamental bass but not always contributing throughout a piece. The “Producers Edition” was a great opportunity to create something whole myself, to step out to the front and showcase more of my abilities.’

Check out the Hollow in the tree video now on the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s YouTube channel

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Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi complete ‘Nordic Swans’ tour of Belgium, Germany and Poland with Freedom and Solidarity Concert

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi’s ‘Nordic Swans’ tour of Belgium, Germany and Poland ended last night with a heartfelt Freedom and Solidarity Concert in Gdańsk. After making a memorable Belgian debut at Antwerp’s Queen Elisabeth Hall on 23 March, the orchestra returned to a sold-out Berlin Philharmonie on 24 March before giving an inspirational performance at Gdańsk’s European Solidarity Centre in which Russian artists also performed together with the Ukrainian musician Ruslan Trochynskyi. This closing concert was held under the patronage of the German Consulate General in Gdańsk and the City of Gdańsk. With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic was finally able to return to the stage as a full-sized, 65-strong orchestra, and the ‘Nordic Swans’ tour saw it perform its completely memorised, swan-inspired progamme to a total of around 3,200 concert-goers.

Solidarity with Ukraine
As an ensemble that brings together musicians from ten countries around the Baltic Sea region, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic is a force for unity and collaboration in Europe. With war in Ukraine, the orchestra stands with the Ukrainian people, and this solidarity found powerful expression in Gdańsk, the city that gave birth in 1980 to the Solidarity movement which would play a major role in ending Communist rule in Poland. The concert was broadcast as livestream on the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s YouTube channel, as well as on Channel Aid and ERR Kultuuriportaal. The German Consul General in Gdańsk, Cornelia Pieper, also paid tribute to all those in Ukraine fighting for freedom: ‘Over 40 years ago Polish heroes stood up for their rights resulting in freedom for many countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall.’. She appealed to the audience to fight for freedom again and again. Kristjan Järvi, who as a child fled Soviet-ruled Estonia with his family, spoke of the power of dialogue and understanding as a force against aggression and oppression: ‘In music we are all equal. There are no borders, no nationalities. In music we are all brothers and sisters. The orchestra and the place, the European Center of Solidarność are the best examples of this idea of humanity and unity against violence and oppression.’.

Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic brought to Gdańsk their own musical tribute to Ukraine in the shape of a new piece, Child of the Nightingale, co-written by Järvi and Ukrainian musician Ruslan Trochynskyi. The nightingale is the national bird of Ukraine and often appears in Ukrainian folk songs and folk tales. Trochynskyi joined the orchestra on stage in Gdańsk for the world premiere, which also marked the launch of Järvi’s new digital music project #musichainforukraine. This initiative, which builds on the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s recent series of collaborative music videos, will invite musicians around the world to record and post their own versions of the Child of the Nightingale melody on social media, and thus create a virtual musical chain as a powerful expression unity and solidarity.

The livestream of the Gdańsk concert will be available on the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s YouTube channel for one week, and Estonian television channel ETV will broadcast a recording of the concert on Thursday 31 March.

Nordic Swans’ – a spectacle of light and dark, of grace and dance
Inspired by the majestic swan, a bird cherished in many Nordic cultures for its strength, purity and grace, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Nordic Swans’ programme comprised Arvo Pärt’s contemplative Swansong, Sibelius’s haunting The Swan of Tuonela, and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, strikingly arranged as a Dramatic Symphony by Kristjan Järvi. As one of its encores, the orchestra introduced an uplifting new work, The Dream of Tabu-tabu, composed by Liis Jürgens, an Estonian harpist in the ensemble.

In signature Baltic Sea Philharmonic style, the orchestra performed the entire 100-minute programme completely from memory, with most of the musicians able to move freely and truly embrace the dance essence of Swan Lake. This unique style of stage presentation was complemented by atmospheric lighting design and bespoke concert outfits in black and white, evoking the shapes and movement of swans on dark water. In his review for Der Tagesspiegel of the Berlin concert, Fredrik Hanssen highlighted the energy and verve emanating from conductor and orchestra: ‘Without a podium or baton, Kristjan Järvi acts in the midst of the ensemble as primus inter pares, dancing the score, letting the sounds flow through his body and translating every musical turn into movement… The atmosphere in the sold-out Philharmonie is so swan-tastic, as the streams of energy flow so happily from the stage into the hall and back!’ Rainer Balcerowiak wrote for the magazine for political culture Cicero: The orchestra follows him [=Kristjan Järvi] attentively and has recognizably great fun. And some choreographed movement sequences and the discreet but precise lighting design turn this already breath-taking concert experience, presented without a break, into a multimedia experience… After just two hours, you leave the Berlin Philharmonie with a relaxed smile and a liberated head flooded with light and sound. It is such relatively brief moments of pleasure, in which there is no war, no Corona and no climate crisis in the mind that are so indispensable for mental health.’

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Livestream of the ‘Nordic Swans’ concert in Gdańsk on 26 March

The concert will be held under the patronage of the German Consulate General in Gdańsk and the City of Gdańsk.

Gdańsk is the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which played a major role in ending Communist rule in Poland. The movement’s founding leader Lech Wałęsa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and served as Polish president from 1990 to 1995, strongly condemns the war against Ukraine: ‘This war is a disgrace and a slap in the face for humanity and the modern world. At the same time, it is a challenge for the free democratic world.’ He adds that ‘peace is absolutely necessary for us to survive as a species, for the world to survive. And we must prove that the wiser democratic part of the world is stronger.’

The ‘Nordic Swans’ programme, performed entirely from memory, features swan-inspired music by Arvo Pärt (Swansong), Sibelius (The Swan of Tuonela) and Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake, newly arranged by Kristjan Järvi as a Dramatic Symphony). But another bird will share the spotlight in Gdańsk, as the performance opens with the world premiere of Child of the Nightingale, a new piece written by Kristjan Järvi and Ukrainian musician Ruslan Trochynskyi, from the folk band Svjata Vatra. The nightingale is the national bird of Ukraine and is often invoked in Ukrainian folklore and folksong as a harbinger of spring and a singer of sweet sounds. Trochynskyi will join Kristjan Järvi on stage in Gdańsk to perform their creation with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic.

‘Nordic Swans’ – Freedom and Solidarity Concert
Livestream on the YouTube Channel of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic
Saturday, 26 March 2022, 8.00pm CET live from Gdańsk (Poland)

Schedule of the livestream and concert:

Joint statement by
Cornelia Pieper, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Gdańsk
Kristjan Järvi, Artistic Director of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic
Ruslan Trochynskyi, Ukrainian artist

‘Nordic Swans’
Baltic Sea Philharmonic
Kristjan Järvi
Special Guest Ruslan Trochynskyi

Kristjan Järvi / Ruslan Trochynskyi
Child of the Nightingale (world premiere)

Arvo Pärt
Swansong

Jean Sibelius
The Swan of Tuonela

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake. Dramatic Symphony arranged by Kristjan Järvi

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