The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi completed their first major tour of 2019 on 21 March with a special concert at the historic Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. The ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour, which began in Palanga, Lithuania, on 11 March, featured six performances in eleven days. Joined by Swiss violinist David Nebel and Estonian singer-songwriter Mick Pedaja, the orchestra travelled more than 1,000 km from Palanga to St. Petersburg, via Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki. Around 4,500 concert goers experienced the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s unique spirit and energy, and witnessed the orchestra perform, completely from memory, a new 70-minute concert suite drawn from Tchaikovsky’s ballet masterpiece The Sleeping Beauty.
‘Nordic Pulse’ – an exhilarating Baltic adventure
The tour opened on Lithuania’s Restoration of Independence Day with the orchestra’s debut at the Palanga Concert Hall. From Palanga, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic travelled to Riga to perform in the Great Guild Hall. The tour continued in Tallinn, the city of Kristjan Järvi’s birth, with a sold-out concert at the Estonia Concert Hall, before moving on to Helsinki and a debut performance at Finlandia Hall. ‘Nordic Pulse’ concluded with two concerts in St. Petersburg – the first at the ultra-modern Mariinsky II, and the second at the grand, Rococo-style Catherine Palace. Alongside the ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic held a parallel Talent Tour, auditioning top music students in Palanga, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki and St. Petersburg, with the aim of recruiting the best talent from across the region to join the orchestra on future tours.
Playing by heart – a Tchaikovsky world premiere
A major highlight of the ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour was the unveiling of a new concert suite, arranged by Kristjan Järvi, of music from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. The 70-minute work was performed entirely from memory. ‘The suite is a condensed version of the whole ballet,’ explains Järvi, ‘and comprises 3,056 bars of music. It takes what we’ve been doing over the last two years in the realm of memorisation to a new level.’ As on previous tours, the memorised performances proved a revelation for audiences, with one concert goer, Massimo Nunzi, enthusing: ‘This is a completely new way to approach classical music. This is the future.’
Inspired by nature – and focused on the environment
‘Nordic Pulse’ took inspiration from nature and at the same time underlined the orchestra’s commitment to the environment. The musical programme was infused with themes of renewal and fresh life, evident in Kristjan Järvi’s Aurora for violin and string orchestra – a work inspired by both the warmth of spring and the lights of the aurora borealis – and in the awakening of Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Sensitivity to the Nordic landscape shone through in both Pēteris Vasks’s second violin concerto Vientuļais Eņģelis (Lonely Angel) and the 2018 Violin Concerto by Gediminas Gelgotas, both performed together with violinist David Nebel. Special guest Mick Pedaja added a mystical dimension with songs inspired by his natural surroundings, especially the forests of Estonia.
Two of the ‘Nordic Pulse’ concerts were directly focused on the environmental cause. The performance in Helsinki was a benefit concert for the John Nurminen Foundation, which directs projects dedicated to protecting the waters of the Baltic Sea. And the final concert of the tour, at the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, was a special performance for delegates to the 20th annual Baltic Sea Day, an international forum that focuses on ways to protect the Baltic Sea environment.
Acclaim from critics and audiences
The irrepressible energy of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic impressed the reviewer from the Helsingin Sanomat, who wrote of the Helsinki concert: ‘In an entertaining first half, Järvi’s Aurora captured the joyous dance of the sun, and seemed to call all the nations of the Baltic Sea together in a merry midsummer celebration. Playing by heart undoubtedly welds the ensemble together both physically and mentally, and strengthens communication. The atmosphere was colourful, with Järvi inspiring his players like a circus ringmaster.’
Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks was in the audience at Riga’s Great Guild Hall to hear his violin concerto Lonely Angel. He commented: ‘Who cannot like Kristjan Järvi? He has such a youthful spirit, and carries all the young musicians with him. He’s also looking for new methods of presenting orchestral music, and new ways to attract young people to experience symphony orchestras. It’s a miracle.’
‘Midnight Sun’ tour to come
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Midnight Sun’ tour of Germany in June and July 2019 is the next step on the orchestra’s journey to realise hitherto unseen and unheard concert experiences. The tour is inspired by the phenomenon of the sun never setting at night, and will feature Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen and Mick Pedaja in a programme that will be performed completely from memory. The debut of ‘Midnight Sun’ will be on 26 June at the Berlin Philharmonie. A second performance will follow at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie on 2 July.