The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi returned to the Merano Music Festival in Italy on 20 September and the Usedom Music Festival in Germany on 21 September with ‘Divine Geometry’, a new memorised programme of Baroque and minimalist music. Together with American pianist Simone Dinnerstein, the orchestra gave the Italian premiere of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (2017) in the closing concert of the Merano Music Festival. And on the opening night of the Usedom Music Festival in Peenemünde, the orchestra gave the German premiere of Steve Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, a 2018 work which the Baltic Sea Philharmonic co-commissioned with five of the world’s leading symphony orchestras. Both ‘Divine Geometry’ concerts were sell-outs, and attracted a total audience of 2,200. The Usedom Music Festival performance was recorded for broadcast on Deutschlandfunk Kultur on 27 September. The concert in Merano was recorded by RAI Südtirol for broadcast on 10 November.
Patterns of perfection
‘Divine Geometry’ juxtaposed two giants of the Baroque – Bach and Handel – with two titans of American minimalism (Glass and Reich), exploring the fascinating similarities and relationships between each composer’s rhythmic patterns and musical structures. Alongside the two contemporary works, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic performed an orchestral transcription of Bach’s Chaconne and Kristjan’s imaginative reworking of Handel concerti grossi, Too Hot to Handel. The entire programme was played as an unbroken line of music, interweaving complete works and individual movements from the Glass concerto and Too Hot to Handel with improvised connecting transitions. Moreover, this was all done entirely from memory, as has become the orchestra’s trademark.
Acclaimed returns to Merano and Usedom
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s sold-out performance in Merano was the orchestra’s third appearance in as many years at this prestigious music festival. The concert at the Usedom Music Festival, where the orchestra has performed every year since its founding in 2008, was another triumphant sell-out, and garnered the following praise from Ostsee-Zeitung critic Ekkehard Ochs: ‘Järvi’s concept captivates with its uncompromising approach and music-making that literally delights all the senses. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic can do just anything, and so can Järvi. He is right: his orchestra is more than just an orchestra!’
Simone Dinnerstein: an inspirational partner
Making her debut with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, Simone Dinnerstein brought a wealth of experience of performing the Glass Concerto, a piece which was written especially for her. A frequent collaborator with Kristjan, Simone said in an interview with NDR Kultur (Northern German Broadcasting) that the ‘Divine Geometry’ project was the high point of their work together. ‘The musicians of this orchestra are extremely interactive with each other and are great listeners,’ she added. ‘They are so inspiring.’ The Baltic Sea Philharmonic players, for their part, found Simone a charming and inspirational partner in Glass’s beguiling music.
In the run-up to the ‘Divine Geometry’ concerts, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic came together in the German spa town of Bad Schussenried for six days of intensive preparation, culminating in a full public dress rehearsal. Although many of the players had previously performed from memory with the orchestra, some of the ensemble’s new members were experiencing playing by heart for the first time, and the ‘Divine Geometry’ programme pushed the orchestra to a whole new level. Kristjan acknowledged: ‘This programme makes our first performance of The Firebird from memory [in 2017] and even this year’s memorised performance of The Sleeping Beauty seem like a walk in the park.’