Musical Chain

A symbol of unity and solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s digital initiative brings together musicians and collaborators from across Europe and beyond in a new kind of virtual orchestra collaboration

In July 2020 Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Philharmonic launched a major new online project, ‘Musical Chain’, with the goal of taking the virtual orchestral idea in a completely fresh direction, while continuing to bring together musicians and other artists in a spirit of international collaboration. The project opened with the ‘Rewritten Series’, an ongoing series of strikingly original music videos featuring transformations and remixes of iconic classical pieces. ‘Musical Chain’ will continue with more ideas and projects that showcase how the Baltic Sea Philharmonic is taking the concept of an orchestra further – from orchestra to band to producer.

Inspired by historic human chains
A symbol of unity and solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘Musical Chain’ is inspired by historic human chains, such as the Baltic Way, which was a peaceful political demonstration on 23 August 1989 when around two million people joined hands to form a human chain stretching more than 600km across the three Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Launched in July, when the Baltic Sea Philharmonic would have been touring Poland, Germany and Russia were it not for the pandemic, ‘Musical Chain’ reflects the orchestra’s strength as a community of musicians, its boundary-breaking spirit and its dedication to communicating through digital media the energy, style and freedom of its live performances.

Far from standing silent in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic is finding new ways, through the ‘Musical Chain’ initiative, to showcase its creativity and personality. Kristjan Järvi says: ‘The pandemic has put us into a situation where we have to come out of our normal groove and comfort zone, our usual structures, methods and routines. We have to create a completely new reason for being, and ask ourselves why we do what we do. Physically we can’t produce the same energy in the same room, but we’re creating a new way to convey our energy and spirit to people around the world who are inspired by what we do and the way we make music.’

‘Rewritten Series’ in 2020
‘Musical Chain’ launched on 23 July 2020 with the first video in the ‘Rewritten Series’, ‘Midnight Mood’. A reimagining of Grieg’s ‘Morning Mood’ from Peer Gynt, ‘Midnight Mood’ brought together 13 musicians under the creative direction of Kristjan Järvi, who mixed the musicians’ individually recorded tracks to produce the final audio. A professional production team then edited the video. In the first two months after its release, ‘Midnight Mood’ had over 30,000 views on Facebook and more than 20,000 views on YouTube.

The second video in the ‘Rewritten Series’ was ‘Beethoven’s Twilight’, which launched online on 24 September 2020. A cutting-edge, electronics-infused take on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, ‘Beethoven’s Twilight’ features 21 musicians of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. As before, the players made recordings at home, and the final audio was mixed and produced by Kristjan Järvi. The captivating video for ‘Beethoven’s Twilight’ reinvents the 1980s MTV aesthetic for the YouTube generation. The musicians filmed themselves performing outside in atmospheric landscapes, and these scenes are intercut with emotive scenes of love, loss, pain and peace, along with elemental images of nature, cities and space. An extended audio track of ‘Beethoven’s Twilight’ is availble on digital streaming platforms.

The third video in the ‘Rewritten Series’ is ‘Ascending Swans’, based on Sibelius’s ‘Song of Praise’ from the Swanwhite Suite, one of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s signature encore pieces. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic recorded the music for ‘Ascending Swans’ in Merano, Italy, in September 2020, during its ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour of Italy and Germany. Kristjan Järvi remixed the audio and a professional production team edited the video, which features 13 Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians who recorded themselves outdoors. These videos are interlaced with stunning images that celebrate the nature and landscape of the North. Calming and uplifting, elemental and spiritual, ‘Ascending Swans’ reflects the grace, purity and strength of the eponymous birds, many thousands of which migrate south from the Arctic in October and November. The music track of ‘Ascending Swans’ was the first single from the ‘Musicial Chain’ series that was released by the Estonian label nEscapes.

In the last ‘Musical Chain’ video ‘Nutty Christmas’ in 2020, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi transform the ‘Dance of the Reed Pipes’ and the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker into a unique musical Christmas cracker. The audio for the new production was recorded by 22 musicians from the orchestra, and the video features 14 musicians, most of whom filmed themselves outside in wintery landscapes and city streets lit up by Christmas decorations. Reflecting the international make-up of the ensemble, the film takes in performances from Wroclaw, Berlin, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Belgrade, Madrid and the countryside of Finland and Lithuania. Kristjan Järvi remixed the audio and a professional production team edited the video, which captures the Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians in a fun and festive mood. ‘Nutty Christmas is also available in an audio version here.

The latest ‘Musical Chain’ video ‘Midnight Sun’ in 2021 shares its title with one of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s signature tour programmes, which is inspired by the phenomenon of the never-setting sun that occurs above the Arctic Circle around midsummer. This video captures the magical light and wonder of the North, with monochrome images of nature and landscapes combining with an eyecatching graphical design comprising constantly moving and changing lines, points and shapes. The video was directed by Berlin-based designer, editor and illustrator Raban Ruddigkeit, who has collaborated with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic since 2016. Jonas Rose, a young designer from Münster, created the animations for the video. ‘Midnight Sun’ has also been released as a single by BMG/Modern Recordings. Kristjan Järvi has produced two audio versions – a three-minute radio edit, which is also the basis for the accompanying music video, and a longer version of five minutes.

‘Musical Chain – Producer’s Edition’

The newest release of the orchestra’s ‘Musical Chain – Producers Edition’, an expansion of the ‘Musical Chain’ series, Hollow in the tree, composed by Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians Mintautas Kriščiūnas (viola) and Zuzanna Wąsiewicz (harp), is released on Estonian independent label nEscapes, and an accompanying music video, produced and directed by another orchestra member, Ludwig Angerhöfer (tuba), is available to watch on our social media channels. An engaging fusion of electronic textures and orchestral soundscapes, the music for Hollow in the Tree was recorded by the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi on the island of Usedom in September 2021 during the orchestra’s ‘Nordic Swans’ tour of Italy, Slovenia, Germany and Poland.

The ’Musical Chain’ project was extended with the ‘Producers Edition’, which invited Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians to create their own music and videos, and gave them the opportunity to showcase their talents as composers, producers, scriptwriters, sound engineers and videographers. Hollow in the Tree is the first single of the ‘Producers Edition’, but it will not be the last. Further tracks will be released later in the year, each featuring different Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians as composers, producers, and video artists.