Under the baton of the talented Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra performs three works by Jean Sibelius: The Wood Nymph, Op.15, En Saga, Op.9, and Symphony No.5 in E flat major, Op.82.
Santtu-Matias Rouvali's first concert as chief conductor for the Gothenburg Symphony.
Live broadcast from Gothenburg Concert Hall
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Stockholm: 06:00 PM CEST
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Sunday, August 20, 2017
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Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
♪ The Wood Nymph (Skogsrået), tone poem ("ballade") for orchestra, Op.15 (1895)
♪ En Saga, tone poem for orchestra, Op.9 (1892)
♪ Symphony No.5 in E flat major, Op.82 (1914-1915, rev. 1919)
i. Tempo molto moderato – Allegro moderato – Presto – Più presto
ii. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto – Tranquillo – Poco a poco stretto – Tempo primo
iii. Allegro molto – Misterioso – Largamente assai – Un pochettino stretto
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Santtu-Matias Rouvali
The Wood Nymph (Skogsrået), tone poem ("ballade") for orchestra, Op.15
Jean Sibelius wrote four works based on the poem "The Wood Nymph" by Finnish poet Viktor Rydberg: a song with piano accompaniment (1889); a tone poem for large orchestra (1894); a melodrama for speaker, strings, two horns, and piano (1894); and a piece for solo piano (1894). Aside from the text, the song is entirely independent of the other three works, which share a common tonality and common thematic material. All four works remained unpublished and unrecorded until 1996. The tone poem and the melodrama share the same opus number of 15.
The tone poem or "Ballade for Orchestra" as it is subtitled, is one of Sibelius' longest single-movement tone poems, lasting nearly 22 minutes in performance. Like his other orchestral works of the early 1890s – the Lemminkainen and Karelia Suites and the first version of the tone poem En Saga – The Wood Nymph is a powerful work of tremendous energy and power. In four sections, the work starts with a portrait of Bjorn, the hero of the work, for full brass over a pulsing string background similar to that of Marcia of the Karelia Suite. In the second section, the heroic music continues as Bjorn sets off into the forest, but the accompaniment changes as he encounters the jealous goblins and nymphs portrayed in a chromatic dance in the winds. The third section of the work begins Moderato with an ardent theme in the cello depicting the Wood Nymph. Her dance before Bjorn is accompanied by winds, tambourine, and triangle. The fourth section of the work is dark and weighty, with an aching violin theme over the low brass and bass drum describing the broken hero whose heart has been lost to the wood nymph.
Although it is not on the same level of inspiration as En Saga, The Wood Nymph's complete disappearance from the repertoire is inexplicable. The disappearance of the melodrama, however, is more easily explained. While the work is as attractively scored and as well-composed as the tone poem, the whole genre of the melodrama – that is, a piece of music with narrator – has disappeared from the concert hall. Like the tone poem, the melodrama is in four sections. However, the melodrama is much more compact than the tone poem, lasting a little over ten minutes in performance and is much more succinct in the thematic development. The solo piano piece based on The Wood Nymph is very brief and deals only with the final section of the music of the tone poem and melodrama. It has no opus number.
Source: James Leonard (allmusic.com)
En Saga, tone poem for orchestra, Op.9
This is one of Sibelius' earliest orchestral works, and it brims with youthful energy. It is also a highly atmospheric work, clearly evocative of the composer's beloved Finland – its people, proud history, countryside and landscapes. The title (Swedish, rather than Finnish, meaning "A Fairy Tale") suggests it is a programmatic work, and indeed there does seem to be a musical "story" present; the composer, however, never identified any specific extra-musical inspiration.
Sibelius wrote the work at the suggestion of conductor Robert Kajanus, who wanted a composition that would have wide appeal; in completing it Sibelius drew on themes from an unperformed and unpublished octet for strings and winds he had written in Berlin. At its February 16, 1893, premiere in Helsinki (led by the composer), En Saga was not a success, suffering as it did from a lack of formal organization. Sibelius' 1902 revision, however – coming, perhaps not insignificantly, directly after the composition of his Symphony No.2 – overcame these difficulties, and is now regarded as one of his finest orchestral works.
The work begins mysteriously, the music seeming to awaken and gather momentum, as strings swirl and woodwinds bark and chirp. This gives rise to a lively rhythmic theme of characteristically Sibelian character; there is something both mournful and proud in the melody – simple, yet striking. This theme is the first of three that, by development and interaction, become the de facto "characters" in this musical tale; they each struggle to maintain hold on the music as becomes more conflicted, eventually rising to a violent climax. Eventually, the musical conflict is resolved, and only the solo clarinet – accompanied by gentle strings – is left to witness the end.
Throughout En Saga Sibelius puts the woodwinds front and center, often using their dissonant punctuations to herald the beginning of a new section or idea. The color and character of these woodwind passages are perhaps the most identifiably Scandinavian musical feature of the score. While there are influences here of Rimsky-Korsakov and other Russian composers, En Saga must be regarded as one of the composer's most individual and satisfying early works. A typical performance lasts from about 17 to 20 minutes.
Source: Rovi Staff (allmusic.com)
Symphony No.5 in E flat major, Op.82
Sibelius composed three versions of this work between 1915 and 1919, and led the premiere of the last one on October 21, 1921, in Helsinki. It is abstemiously scored: double winds, brass without tuba, tympani, strings. In time for his 50th birthday, which was celebrated as a national holiday in Finland, Sibelius completed and conducted a first version of his Fifth Symphony, in four movements – startlingly longer than the final version and comparatively inchoate. Only string bass parts have survived a revision begun immediately after the premiere. Still not satisfied, Sibelius rethought and reworked it over two years. What eventuated has become the most popular of his seven symphonies: a triumph of structural ingenuity, and a validation of non-programmatic music when Lisztians of every stripe – most notably Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler – were deconstructing "absolute" art.
What finally evolved in the first movement is a structure that begins with the double exposition of two theme-groups, the second of them in G (where the strings enter). Sibelius didn't just restate his basic materials; his range of mood extended to a passage marked lugubre for bassoons. Through a variety of keys he reaches a long development section, which builds toward recapitulation whereupon 12/8 time, after a slow acceleration, suddenly switches to 3/4, E flat changes to B major, and Allegro moderato becomes the new basic tempo. What follows was salvaged from a separate Scherzo movement in the 1915 version – complete with Trio – but one that segues into the tonic recap of theme-groups one and two, followed by a coda that quickens to Presto.
The Andante mosso, quasi allegretto is as simple, structurally, as the first movement is complex, but hardly simplistic: in effect, there are several variations on a rhythm – two groups of five quarter notes separated by a quarter note rest. This "theme" is played first by violas and cellos after a motif for clarinets, bassoons, and horns that returns as a countermelody. Sibelius creates "six tunes" (Michael Steinberg's diction), more or less tranquil on the surface but underneath mysterious, even briefly turbulent, with a translucent passage (violins divided into eight parts) that bespeaks pure genius. Also beneath the surface is a first statement (by low strings) of the proclamative theme that will dominate the finale.
Strings play the first theme in what some Sibelians have called a rondo, but others insist is sonata-structure, a whirring, buzzing business that culminates in the heroic second theme for pairs of horns, playing whole notes, in thirds. Momentum is sustained while the two subjects pursue a complex course through various keys and mass dissonances that only the horn theme, reassigned to trumpets, can finally cut through, like a machete through jungle growth. Trombones and horns join in, until Sibelius decrees silence, followed by six chords that bring his odyssey into a safe and happy harbor.
Source: Roger Dettmer (allmusic.com)
Santtu-Matias Rouvali (b. 1985) is a Finnish conductor and percussionist. From a family of musicians, Rouvali's parents played in the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. He is the youngest of the three sons in his family. One of his older brothers died in a car accident at age 23.
Rouvali learned percussion as a youngster, and continued his studies at the Sibelius Academy. Rouvali completed in the Eurovision Young Soloists Finnish qualifier in 2004 as a percussionist. As a percussionist, he performed with such orchestras as the Mikkeli City Orchestra, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. At age 22, he focused more on studies in conducting at the Sibelius Academy, where his teachers included Jorma Panula, Leif Segerstam and Hannu Lintu.
In September 2009, Rouvali guest-conducted the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra as an emergency substitute conductor. He first guest-conducted the Tapiola Sinfonietta in November 2010. Later in the same month, the Tapiola Sinfonietta named Rouvali an artist-in-association with the orchestra, effective September 2011, with an agreement of 3 years.
Rouvali first guest-conducted the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2010. He subsequently returned as a guest conductor in December 2011. In September 2012, the orchestra announced the appointment of Rouvali as its chief conductor, effective with the 2013-2014 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. His current Tampere contract is through 2019.
Outside of Finland, Rouvali first guest-conducted the Copenhagen Philharmonic in November 2011. He subsequently became principal guest conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic with the 2013-2014 season. In August 2014, Rouvali made his first guest-conducting appearance with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (GSO). In May 2016, the GSO announced the appointment of Rouvali as its next chief conductor, effective with the 2017-2018 season, with an initial contract of 4 years.
Rouvali has made commercial recordings with the Oulu Philharmonic Orchestra for Ondine, and with the Tampere Philharmonic for Orfeo.
The 2017/2018 season sees Santtu-Matias Rouvali begin two new tenures; Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside these positions he continues his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic close to his home in Finland. Hailed by The Guardian as "the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition", until last season Santtu-Matias Rouvali was also Principal Guest Conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic.
Rouvali has upcoming debuts with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Münchner Philharmoniker and Orquesta Nacionale de España in Madrid, as well as regular relationships with other orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in Paris, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; and has ambitious touring plans with his own orchestras over the next few seasons in Europe, Japan and North America. His first season as Chief Conductor in Gothenburg includes a substantial Nordic tour with pianist Hélène Grimaud.
Previously a Dudamel Fellow at the conducting programme with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, last season he made a triumphant return as a highlight of their subscription season, alongside other American debuts with the Minnesota and Cincinnati symphony orchestras.
In June 2017, as Chief Conductor-designate, he joined Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony in their El Sistema Side by Side project with the Gothenburg Symphony, which has been a hugely successful summer camp for children and young people.
As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he looks forward to adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. Rouvali's latest disc – of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos is with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and Baiba Skride – was released in summer 2015 on ORFEO. Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic since 2013, and in addition to his other recordings, highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall.
Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La forza del destino with Tampere Opera and his next project with them, in spring 2018, is a world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera.
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