Orchestra begins 2020 with special charity concert with indie band Bastille at Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg
‘Nordic Pulse’ tour to Germany and Italy in September includes concerts at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Beethovenfest Bonn and Usedom Music Festival
Baltic Sea Philharmonic to perform every concert completely from memory
Orchestra to collaborate with violinist Mari Samuelsen for ‘Midnight Sun’
Berlin, 11 December 2019. After twelve concerts in nine countries in 2019, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi will return to the stage at the beginning of 2020 with a charity concert at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg on 4 January. Joining the British indie band Bastille, the orchestra will headline the ‘Channel Aid – Live in Concert’ show, performing specially reorchestrated Bastille songs. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s first ever collaboration with a pop group – which will be livestreamed on the Channel Aid YouTube channel – kicks off another busy year for the orchestra. In 2020 the Baltic Sea Philharmonic will continue its remarkable progress on the international music scene, creating unique, transformative concert experiences for audiences across Europe and beyond. Two major tours – ‘Midnight Sun’ in June and July, and ‘Nordic Pulse’ in September – will bring the orchestra’s stunning performances to some of the most renowned concert halls and festivals in Europe, including the Berlin Philharmonie (23 June), the Stars of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg (28 June), the Elbphilharmonie
(5 September) and the Beethovenfest Bonn (5 and 6 September).
‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Nordic Pulse’ – the new impulse of the north
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Nordic Pulse’ tours in 2020 follow in the spirit of this year’s tours, in which the orchestra premiered striking new arrangements of classical masterpieces alongside stunning contemporary works; created immersive concert experiences together with sound and lighting designers; collaborated with singer-songwriters and electronic musicians; and transformed the communication between musicians and audience by stripping the stage of music stands and performing entire concerts from memory. Kristjan Järvi explains: ‘All our tours are conceptually based around creating a concert experience, and are not only focused around the repertoire or soloist being a draw but also on a set list of pieces that together represent an idea. “Nordic Pulse” and “Midnight Sun” are about the new impulse of the north that we want to convey.’ This impulse is transmitted by the orchestra ripping up classical concert conventions and challenging others to break free of traditions and precedents.
‘Midnight Sun’ is inspired by the sun never setting at night, a phenomenon that unites the Nordic communities. The ‘Midnight Sun’ tour of Poland, Germany and Russia in June and July 2020 will reunite the Baltic Sea Philharmonic with Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen in a programme featuring music by Rautavaara, Pärt, Max Richter, Kristjan Järvi, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.
In September the Baltic Sea Philharmonic will tour Germany and Italy with ‘Nordic Pulse’, a programme inspired by nature and Nordic landscapes. A highlight of the tour will be two concerts at the Beethovenfest Bonn, as the orchestra joins in the celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The music of ‘Nordic Pulse’ will include one of the orchestra’s signature pieces – Kristjan Järvi’s innovative recasting of Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty as a dramatic symphony.
Järvi sums up the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s 2020 as ‘more fresh thinking, more imaginative collaborations, more new interpretations of great classics by Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Beethoven and others, and more exciting contemporary music, as the orchestra brings its unique energy and message to new audiences’.
Playing by heart
Since becoming the first orchestra to perform Stravinsky’s The Firebird from memory, in August 2017 on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic has rapidly become known for its memorised performances. In 2020 the orchestra will perform every concert from memory, with the majority of programmes also presented without breaks, thus creating a continuous flow of music. With no music stands on stage, and with the most of the orchestra standing up, the musicians are free to move and communicate more directly with each other, the conductor and the audience. As Järvi explains: ‘Playing by heart is not done to impress, or show that we have the capacity to memorise complex scores, but to evolve the orchestra as an art form into a living, breathing organism where the main sensation is not reading music but expressing ourselves intuitively and building collective trust in our innate intelligence.’
Looking back at 2019
Building on the success of the orchestra’s 2018 tenth-anniversary year, 2019 was another year of innovation for the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. For the first time, the orchestra performed an entire programme not just from memory but with no breaks, thereby creating a continuous flow of music, which also incorporated improvised transitional sections. New collaborations with guest soloists included the orchestra’s first-ever partnership with a singer-songwriter. And the Baltic Sea Philharmonic gave its debut performance in Budapest, one of the great European musical centres. Three major tours in 2019 – ‘Nordic Pulse’, ‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Divine Geometry’ – took the musicians to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy and Hungary. The orchestra performed twelve concerts for a total audience of 13,000.
The ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour of the Baltic States, Finland and Russia in March featured the orchestra’s first collaboration with Estonian singer-songwriter Mick Pedaja, whose flowing, electronic-tinged songs evoked the mysticism and beauty of Nordic landscapes. Swiss violinist David Nebel also joined the orchestra.
‘Midnight Sun’ in June and July featured concerts in Austria and Germany at Berlin Philharmonie and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, with Mari Samuelsen as soloist and Mick and Angeelia Pedaja as special guests. Musical highlights on this tour celebrated by the press included Rautavaara’s magical Cantus Arcticus and Stravinsky’s The Firebird, with the orchestra playing the whole two-hour programme from memory, as a single unbroken ‘track’. The Hamburger Abendblatt wrote: ‘Clearly a different league’.
During both the ‘Nordic Pulse’ and ‘Midnight Sun’ tours, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic held a concurrent ‘Talent Tour’ to recruit new members and refresh and expand the pool of outstanding musicians who perform in the orchestra on tour. The 2019 ‘Talent Tour’ welcomed a total of around 100 players from across all the orchestral instrumental sections to auditions in Palanga, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Berlin.
In September the ‘Divine Geometry’ tour imaginatively intertwined arrangements of Baroque masterpieces with major new works by American minimalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich. At the Merano Music Festival and Usedom Music Festival, Simone Dinnerstein was the soloist in Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and in the Usedom concert the orchestra gave the German premiere of Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra. Both concerts were sold out and were recorded for broadcast.
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic closed 2019 with a ‘Midnight Sun’ concert in Budapest on 19 November. Making its Hungarian debut, the orchestra was joined by Budapest-born pianist József Balog for a programme including Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. Away from the concert hall, there was one more special event in November – the world premiere screening in Tallinn of Nordic Pulse, a new documentary starring the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi. This fascinating portrait of the orchestra as it twice toured Europe in 2017 received an enthusiastic reception at the Black Nights Film Festival on 28 November, and is set for international release in 2020.
Baltic Sea Philharmonic – a revolution in music and culture
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic is a new paradigm for music making in the 21st century. Its concerts are a unique spectacle of sound, light, projection art and choreography; its passion for playing orchestral works from memory transforms the musical experience for both players and audiences; and its performances, under the electrifying baton of Music Director Kristjan Järvi, have a special passion and energy that’s infectious. But even more than this, as a community of musicians from ten Nordic countries, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic transcends geographical and historical boundaries and has become a movement for bringing people together. Embodying all that is innovative and progressive about the Nordic region, this visionary ensemble is taking the traditional orchestral model further than ever before. ‘It is a living breathing creature, with boundless energy and enthusiasm for the new – an adventure in itself,’ says Kristjan Järvi.