Waterworks – From the Baltic to the Amazon

Our connection to the world’s rivers and oceans inspired the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ongoing 2017 tour, ‘Waterworks’

In May of this year the Baltic Sea Philharmonic began its pioneering ‘Waterworks’ tour with a series of concerts in Germany and Denmark. Following the conclusion of this month’s ‘Baltic Folk’ tour, the orchestra will complete its ‘Waterworks’ journey with four more performances in Germany.

‘Waterworks’ is a landmark tour for the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. Not only are we celebrating the 80th birthday of Philip Glass by performing two pieces by the great American composer. We are also introducing a thrilling new style of concert presentation, combining music with cutting-edge projection art, lighting and sound design, as well as bespoke performance clothing for our musicians.

The ‘Waterworks’ tour is inspired by water and its power to bind every one of us together. What unites us in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, beyond music and culture, is our connection to nature and to the landscapes of our region, and nothing shapes our natural environment more than the Baltic Sea itself. With ‘Waterworks’ we celebrate not just the life-giving essence of water, but also the Baltic Sea – that great body of water which sustains our region and joins us to all the other water in the world.

Kristjan Järvi explains how this idea shaped the choice of music for the tour: ‘Our programme starts with Handel’s Water Music, because as Handel was born in Germany he was originally part of our Baltic compositional fabric, and it brings us all the way down to the waters of the Amazon, with Philip Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia. The music represents how we are from this region, but are also connected to the whole world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the waters of the Baltic or the Amazon: everything is connected.’

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic presents its own supercharged take on Water Music, combining arrangements by contemporary composers Gene Pritsker and Charles Coleman with selections from Handel’s original composition. The resulting version of Water Music reveals new perspectives on this famous old piece. And as we mark Philip Glass’s 80th birthday year, alongside Aguas da Amazonia we perform another of his nature-themed compositions, the Violin Concerto No. 2 ‘The American Four Seasons’, for which we welcome back the dynamic Russian-born violinist Mikhail Simonyan.

We are also joined by three members of the New York-based Absolute Ensemble who are embedded in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic for ‘Waterworks’. And there are still more collaborators on this special tour: lighting designer Bertil Mark,  projection artist Philipp Geist and sound designer Chris Ekers. They all art part of the team of Sunbeam Productions that join Baltic Sea Philharmonic to create a truly immersive concert experience, fusing music, sound, light and images to magical effect. These technological enhancements are not merely designed to thrill and delight audiences, says Kristjan, but to take them to a new level of awareness and openness. ‘We want to create an atmosphere from the moment a concert goer enters the space,’ he says. ‘The audience should feel as if they are suddenly entering a new dimension, where they can forget about their regular lives and become part of a world where anything is possible.’

The reimagining of the concert experience for ‘Waterworks’ doesn’t stop with spectacular projections and atmospheric sound and lighting design. The innovation extends to what the musicians are wearing on stage, with the players and Kristjan sporting bespoke clothing from Monton, a leading brand that is part of the Estonian fashion house Baltika Group. The orchestra’s striking new look has been designed to reflect the water theme of the concert repertoire, with the musicians clad in shades of grey, white and blue. The clothes fuse style and comfort, giving the Baltic Sea Philharmonic a unique edge, says Kristjan: ‘It’s rare for orchestral musicians to have comfortable performance clothes that are so stylish. So we are breaking new ground, both in terms of fashion and in how the stage design and lighting is enhanced by the look of an orchestra.’

‘Waterworks’ has already wowed audiences in Hattingen, Germany, and Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark in May this year. ‘Waterworks’ now returns to Germany with four concerts in August. First we’re in Berlin on 25 August, to perform at the Konzerthaus as part of the Young Euro Classic festival. Then we revisit Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, where the story of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic began nearly ten years ago. Our ‘Waterworks’ journey next takes us back 500 years when we travel to Martin Luther’s city of Wittenberg, where we perform an open-air concert as part of celebrations to mark half a millennium since the Reformation. And we end the tour on 29 August with our debut performance in Hamburg’s spectacular new Elbphilharmonie, a fitting final destination with its gleaming wave-topped facade mirroring the movement of water in the harbour it overlooks.

See here for the full ‘Waterworks’ tour schedule, and to book tickets.