Today marks the release of the new Max Richter album EXILES, the label debut of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon. Kristjan Järvi and the orchestra perform new recordings of pieces from earlier albums by the British-German composer, as well as works originally composed as ballet scores. EXILES, which also addresses important contemporary issues of war, displacement and flight and it is the orchestra’s first major collaboration with Max Richter. Besides ‘Exiles’, a reflection on the humanitarian catastrophe of the refugee crisis in two parts, the album also contains ‘The Haunted Ocean’ from Waltz with Bashir; ‘Infra 5’ from Infra; ‘Flowers of Herself’ from Woolf Works; ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ from The Blue Notebooks; and ‘Sunlight’ from Songs from Before.
That the composer chose the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi for his new album is no coincidence, as he told the British Guardian: ‘The refugee crisis is still with us in different forms,’ Max Richter said, ‘These kinds of transnational problems call for collaboration, they call for a fundamental working together, and a rethinking of what boundaries and borders even mean in 2021.’ The themes of exile, flight and borders, he said, led him to the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, which gathers musicians from all the countries of the entire Baltic Sea region, historically divided by wars and politics. The fearlessness and pioneering spirit with which the orchestra develops innovative forms of performance, does not passively dwell on the traditional, and always carries out its mission to overcome borders in the performance and presentation of music, made the Baltic Sea Philharmonic a perfect partner for his compositions, which he calls ‘activist music’.
It was also this joy of creative discovery that brought Max Richter, Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic together in September 2019. EXILES was recorded at the studio of Estonian Public Broadcasting in Järvi’s home city of Tallinn, Estonia, in the presence of the composer. The album represents the orchestra’s first major collaboration with Max Richter, although his compositions have previously featured on the programmes of Baltic Sea Philharmonic concerts. Richter and Järvi have worked together on various other projects, including with the MDR Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig, when Järvi was the orchestra’s chief conductor and Richter was artist in residence for its 2016/17 season.
Lights of openness and unity
Max Richter composed the main work on the album, the 33-minute ‘Exiles’, for the Nederlands Dans Theater, and the music had its premiere in 2017 as the score for a dance work called Singulière Odyssée. Like some other Richter works, ‘Exiles’ has a socio-political dimension, in that it is a personal response to the humanitarian disaster of the migrant crisis and the plight of Syrian refugees. Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic take up this theme and in doing so also reflect their own points of view. Tearing down the borders and ideological walls between East and West are still important concerns for conductor and orchestra. ‘Every orchestra is a microcosm of society, and our society is completely non-hierarchical,’ says Kristjan Järvi, who went into exile in America from Soviet Estonia with his family while still a child in the late 1970s. ‘Borders no longer exist here, because today the Baltic Sea is the kit that holds all the countries EU or non-EU, Slavic or non-Slavic together as a cultural unit. Here the states are reborn as one orchestra.’
Find out more about how we made the album EXILES in our storyboard here
Max Richter: EXILES
Recorded at Eesti Rahvusringhääling (Estonian Public Broadcasting), Tallinn, Estonia, September 2019
Music composed by Max Richter
Orchestra Baltic Sea Philharmonic
Conductor Kristjan Järvi
Flowers of Herself (from Woolf Works)
On the Nature of Daylight (from The Blue Notebooks)
The Haunted Ocean (from Waltz with Bashir)
Infra 5 (from Infra)
Sunlight (from Songs from Before)