Berlin, 25 April 2016:
New era begins with Baltic Sea Philharmonic inaugural tour receiving rapturous response from sold-out audiences

  • Tour ends in special Moscow concert celebrating Prokofiev’s 125th anniversary together with pianist Alexander Toradze
  • Nearly 6,000 people attended six concerts in five countries
  •  ‘Baltic Sea Landscapes’ programme championed the environment
  • Joint patronage of Ministers of the Environment for Finland, Estonia and Russia
  • Arvo Pärt attended Tallinn concert
  • Baltic Sea Philharmonics September 2016 tour discovers theme of the svan together with world renowned violinist Gidon Kremer

Berlin, 25 April 2016. The new Baltic Sea Philharmonic finished its inaugural ‘Baltic Sea Landscapes’ tour on a high in Moscow on 23 April, celebrating the 125th anniversary of Prokofiev’s birth. The tour has been full of highlights, with the orchestra travelling 1,829 km to perform 6 concerts in 5 countries, to more than 6,000 audience members, being asked back for 24 encores, playing under the patronage of the Ministers of the Environment for Finland, Estonia and Russia, and raising funds for the environment in a special benefit concert in Helsinki.

A new era
The new orchestra, which made its first tour 15–23 April, is an important step for the Baltic Sea Music Education Foundation in its ambitions for society, culture and the environment. Baltic Sea Philharmonic was born out of the success of its Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic, which continues as a training orchestra, while Baltic Sea Philharmonic will work on specific projects and programmes throughout the year, across the region and internationally. As Kristjan Järvi explained in his speech at the Helsinki concert on 19 April, ‘We were once a youth orchestra, but no more. We have opened this incredible musical force to everyone who wants to join the movement.’

Connecting people
On its first tour, the new Nordic orchestra brought together 80 players from across the entire Baltic Sea region, connecting different nationalities and cultures through the international language of music; and not just players, but audiences, too. Kristjan Järvi explained: ‘Our purpose is to make a point of connection, a point of contact, not only with the audience, but between all of these people, from Norway to Russia – ten countries in this incredible region. An orchestra has a big purpose. It manifests itself on stage, and you see all these different people from different countries playing together. We create an example of unity. This is the microcosm of the harmony that can exist in a united Northern Europe of ten countries. We’re strong, if we want to be.’

Protecting the environment
Another strong motivation for the new orchestra is to celebrate and protect the natural environment, and this tour clearly demonstrated this commitment. The repertoire centred on nature and wildlife, including Jean Sibelius’s Karelia Suite, Stravinsky’s Firebird, Gediminas Gelgotas’s Mountains. Waters. (Freedom) and Arvo Pärt’s Swansong (Pärt attended the concert in Tallinn on 18 April). The concert in Helsinki was a benefit to raise money for the John Nurminen Foundation’s ‘Clean Baltic Sea’ projects. In recognition of this commitment, the orchestra received the joint patronage of the Ministers of the Environment for Finland, Estonia and Russia, with Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment of Finland, and Marko Pomerants, Minister of the Environment of Estonia attending the Helsinki concert.

In his speech at this concert, Kimmo Tiilikainen stressed the importance of the project and praised the Baltic Sea Philharmonic for its vision: ‘None of us can save the Baltic Sea alone. International cooperation is a key element in cleaning the sea. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the musicians. They have an important message tonight: the Baltic Sea can still be saved and we don’t have a moment to lose. I wish the Baltic Sea Philharmonic the greatest success on its tour around the Baltic Sea.’

Musical excellence
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic continues to build on the musical standards of excellence set by the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic, and feedback from both audiences and critics has already been outstanding. Michael Mustillo of Baltic Times wrote of the Liepāja concert on 16 April: ‘It was an impeccable performance that was both electrifying and enthralling, and one which saw Järvi bringing down the house… Much of the concert resonated with his philosophy of living for the moment – being present and conscious, with the charismatic youngest member of the Järvi conducting dynasty making an almost spiritual hypnotic connection with his audience… He and his devoted musicians without doubt gave a life-enhancing musical experience.’

In all, the orchestra brought this ‘life-enhancing musical experience’ to six cities between 15 and 23 April, starting in Klaipeda, Lithuania; travelling to Liepāja, Latvia, to perform in the impressive new Great Amber Concert Hall; on to Tallinn in Estonia and Helsinki, Finland; concluding in St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Concert Hall, on the invitation of Valery Gergiev; and finishing off in Moscow on Prokofiev’s birthday.

Alexander Toradze champions Prokofiev
A special feature of the tour was the collaboration with pianist Alexander Toradze in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of Sergei Prokofiev. Toradze is one of the world’s leading Prokofiev proponents, and shares a deep friendship with Kristjan Järvi and his family. He performed the composer’s Third Piano Concerto during the tour, including on 23 April, Prokofiev’s birthdate, in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall. Toradze described the feeling of working with a young orchestra: ‘The enthusiasm, willingness and attention you get from these young players puts you back to your own young years. It reminds you how exciting every note is, and should be. You put these things on the back burner because you don’t have time to recall them all, but when you’re with a young orchestra it’s right there in front of you.’

Bringing music to life
Inspired by the energy and vision of Kristjan Järvi, the new orchestra is also fully committed to making the experience of classical music open and inclusive, making connections with audiences both new and old. The tour included a special new light show to complement the programme, and all the concerts ended up with carefully chosen encores, reflecting local folk culture, and had the audiences clapping and dancing along. The players gave 24 encores throughout the tour.

More to come in September 2016: ‘Baltic Sea Discovery’ tour
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic plans to perform works by Tchaikovsky, Pärt and Weinberg, giving concerts in Gdansk, Poland (18 September), Copenhagen, Denmark (20 September) and Peenemünde, Germany (24 September). The orchestra will perform Pärt’s Swansong and Kristjan Järvi’s own concert arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.