The Baltic Sea Philharmonic celebrated its long-awaited return to the stage with an acclaimed Romanian debut at the prestigious George Enescu International Festival in Bucharest. The orchestra’s two concerts with Kristjan Järvi at the Romanian Athenaeum concert hall on 30 and 31 August were the ensemble’s first live performances since September 2020, after an enforced break due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic was collaborating in Bucharest for the first time with pianist Maria João Pires and violinist Viktoria Mullova. Pires was soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, which together with Kristjan Järvi’s Aurora and Enescu’s Symphony No. 2 comprised the 30 August programme, ‘Aurora’. The second programme, ‘Nordic Swans’, featured Mullova in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres and the Passacaglia for violin, vibraphone and strings, alongside Pärt’s Swansong and Kristjan Järvi’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as a dramatic symphony. Around 1,000 concert-goers experienced the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s electrifying performances, and the ‘Nordic Swans’ concert was livestreamed on the Enescu Festival website.
A festival of firsts
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s debut at the Enescu Festival was much anticipated by the orchestra’s musicians, who were coming together for the first time in almost a year. A total of 81 players arrived excitedly in Bucharest six days before the first concert, ready for an intensive rehearsal period. Alongside these musicians, this year’s 25th edition of the Enescu Festival (28 August to 26 September 2021) features some 3,400 performers, including some of the greatest orchestras in the world.
The orchestra paid tribute to George Enescu with a performance of his Symphony No. 2 – the first time that the orchestra had performed a work by the great Romanian composer. Kristjan Järvi said of the symphony: ‘This piece has been a real discovery for me. Neither I nor anyone in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic had performed it before, so it was a complete adventure to play it.’ The orchestra played its ‘Nordic Swans’ programme entirely from memory, and greeted standing ovations at both concerts with two favourite encores: Sibelius’s noble ‘Song of Praise’ from the Swanwhite Suite, and Kristjan Järvi’s atmospheric Midnight Sun.
‘Nordic Swans’ goes on tour
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi will now take ‘Nordic Swans’ on tour to Italy, Slovenia, Germany and Poland. A new programme for the tour will enhance the swan theme, with Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela featuring alongside Pärt’s Swansong and Järvi’s dramatic-symphony arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The tour begins in Italy on 3 September at the Merano Music Festival, with the next concert at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona on 4 September. The orchestra’s Slovenian debut follows on 6 September with an outdoor concert in Ljubljana, which will be livestreamed on the Ljubljanafestival.si website. After a special concert at the Usedom Music Festival on 11 September, ‘Nordic Swans’ will conclude in Szczecin, Poland, on 12 September, with a performance at the Szczecin Philharmonic Hall.