After an unprecedented break from live performance because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi have returned to the stage with three hugely successful concerts in Italy and Germany. The orchestra’s ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour, curtailed from a planned total of six concerts because of the pandemic, went ahead with performances at the Merano Music Festival on 10 September and the Usedom Music Festival on 12 September. With social distancing regulations in place, around 500 concert-goers attended the sold-out performance in Merano, and around 400 attended each of two sold-out concerts in Peenemünde, Usedom. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic safely followed all relevant COVID-19 protocols, and toured as a smaller-sized ensemble of 39 musicians.
Return to favourite festivals
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s concert at the Merano Music Festival was its fourth acclaimed performance there in as many years. In Peenemünde, where the Baltic Sea Philharmonic has performed every year since 2008, the orchestra gave two concerts in the same evening. The later event was a special concert of the Usedom Music Festival to mark the 30th anniversary of German reunification, and was attended by the Prime Minister of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig. This concert, and the performance in Merano, were both recorded for future radio broadcast. Deutschlandfunk Kultur will broadcast the Peenemünde concert on 20 October at 8pm.
‘Nordic Pulse’ – an innovative celebration of the North
The ‘Nordic Pulse’ programme took the audiences on an exciting musical journey through the Baltic Sea region. Composers from countries all around the Baltic Sea were represented, including Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Stenhammar, Nielsen, Gediminas Gelgotas and Kristjan Järvi. The musicians performed the entire 70-minute-plus programme from memory, and as a single unbroken stream of music, with individual pieces intertwined. A tailor-made projection underlined the ‘Nordic Pulse’ theme in the Usedom concerts. Members of the ensemble took the soloist roles in several pieces, including violist Maximilian Procop in ‘Midnight Snow’ from Järvi’s White Dragon and clarinettist Alexey Mikhaylenko and bassoonist Arseniy Shkaptsov in Gelgotas’s To the Skies.
For Järvi, ‘Nordic Pulse’ sends a message of unity at a time when countries should be working together to tackle global problems, from COVID-19 to climate change. Speaking ahead of the concerts in Peenemünde, he said: ‘The programme is reflecting why we are actually doing what we are doing in this orchestra. And that is not only to play music, but that we have chosen to come together from our different countries, overlooking all of our histories and differences, and embrace our unity at a time when the world seems to be lacking in humanity.’
Acclaim from critics and concert-goers
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Nordic Pulse’ performances were warmly received by audiences and critics alike. After attending a full dress rehearsal in the German spa town of Bad Schussenried, where the orchestra gathered to prepare for the tour, the reviewer for the Schwäbische Zeitung wrote: ‘A shimmering, sensuous and extremely sensual hour with this sparkling ensemble was poignant proof of the boundlessness of music.’ The Ostsee-Zeitung critic wrote of the Usedom concerts: ‘The irrepressible joy of playing was transformed into a breathtaking sonic experience.’ Also attending the concerts in Peenemünde was Cornelia Pieper, the German consul general in Gdańsk, Poland. She commented afterwards: ‘It is simply incredible what these young musicians are achieving.’
Online innovation continues with ‘Musical Chain’ videos
With many of their planned concerts unfortunately postponed or cancelled in the last six months, Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic have been busy producing innovative online music experiences. The next release in the orchestra’s ‘Musical Chain’ series of remix videos is ‘Beethoven’s Twilight’, with music written and produced by Järvi, based on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The video will be available on the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s social media channels later this month.