In a choice selection of the finest romantic symphonies, Sergei Rachmaninov's Second would surely be among the chosen few. Passion, of course, but also those subtle expressions of emotion that are singular to the Russian psyche. These nuances are explored in depth by Klaus Mäkelä, the young Finnish conductor just embarking on an international career. The concert was recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall in April 2017.
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
♪ Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op.27 (1906-1907)
i. Largo – Allegro moderato
ii. Allegro molto
iv. Allegro vivace
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Klaus Mäkelä
Gothenburg Concert Hall, April 2017
By 1906, the time when Rachmaninov began work of the Second Symphony, he had become not only a well-known pianist and conductor, but a composer of considerable renown. Ten years before, however, the abject failure of his First Symphony had robbed him of his confidence and plunged him into a dark depression. Unable to compose for the next three years, he finally sought the help of Dr. Nicolai Dahl at the behest of relatives. Dahl used the then-new technique of hypnotism, which rapidly restored the composer's confidence. Shortly after his therapeutic sessions with Dahl, Rachmaninov produced his popular Second Piano Concerto. It must have been with some trepidation, though, that he started work on the Second Symphony, memories of the fate of the First undoubtedly still lingering in his mind.
Indeed, after composing the first draft of this symphony in 1906-1907, Rachmaninov declared his dissatisfaction with it; he would remark that it was not in his nature to compose symphonies. Nevertheless, he forced himself to rework the piece, and on February 8, 1908, he led the first performance in St Petersburg. It was enthusiastically received, and by the end of the year, Rachmaninov was awarded the Glinka prize for his new work.
The Symphony opens with a brooding Largo introduction, drenched in mystery and ethereality; it features a motto theme that returns in various guises throughout the symphony. The agitated main theme (Allegro moderato) is followed by an alternate, more ecstatic melody, and then a rather stormy development section. The movement is quite long, especially when – as is now the practice – the exposition repeat is taken.
The second movement (Scherzo) offers a vigorous theme of seemingly brighter mood than that of most of the music in the opening panel. Yet, it is derived from the Dies irae theme, used in the Roman Catholic mass for the dead – a theme which Rachmaninov used in almost every major composition he wrote. There is a lovely alternate melody, which is related to the motto appearing in the Symphony's introduction.
The third movement (Adagio) opens a with a descending theme on strings, one of the composer's loveliest and most memorable creations. There follows an equally attractive melody on clarinet and another for violins and oboe. While to many this movement represents impassioned love music, to others it is profoundly meditative in its warm religiosity. No program was ever attached to the movement or to the Symphony by the composer.
The Allegro vivace finale is happy and triumphant in its luminous main theme, and features a lushly orchestrated, beautiful alternate melody, similar in its ecstatic demeanor to several from the preceding movements. The coda brings on an all-conquering triumphant ending, resolving any lingering doubts spawned by the work's earlier darker elements.
A typical performance of the complete version of the Second Symphony, first movement repeat included, lasts about an hour. Many recordings up to the 1970s, and even a few years beyond, included cuts, eliminating as much as 20 minutes from the score. Rachmaninov himself had been convinced in the early '30s to make cuts in the work, and in the end sanctioned nearly 20 in all. Most performances and recordings of the work today are faithful to Rachmaninov's original score.
Source: Robert Cummings (allmusic.com)
Born in 1996, conductor and cellist Klaus Mäkelä has already made a significant impact on the Finnish musical landscape.
Still in his early twenties, conductor and cellist Klaus Mäkelä has already made a significant impact on the Finnish musical landscape and the 2017-2018 season will see him make important debuts across Europe, Scandinavia, the United States, Canada and Japan. From the 2018-2019 season, Mäkelä will be Principal Guest Conductor with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Artist in Association with Tapiola Sinfonietta.
This season Mäkelä debuts with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, National Arts Center Orchestra (Ottawa), Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Lahti, Norrköping, Iceland and Kristiansand Symphony orchestras, Kammerakademie Potsdam (where he will also lead from the cello), and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. He will also return to Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki, Turku and Tampere Philharmonic orchestras and Tapiola Sinfonietta.
Also working in opera, Mäkelä will make his debut in December 2017 with performances of The Magic Flute with the Finnish National Opera.
Mäkelä has already conducted many Finnish orchestras and now appears regularly with Helsinki Philharmonic, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tampere and Turku Philharmonics, Tapiola Sinfonietta and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra.
At the Sibelius Academy, he studied conducting with Jorma Panula and cello with Marko Ylönen, Timo Hanhinen and Hannu Kiiski. As soloist, he has performed with Finnish orchestras such as the Lahti Symphony, Kuopio Symphony and Jyväskylä Sinfonia as well as appearing at many Finnish festivals including the Kuhmo Chamber Music, Naantali Music Festival, and Chamber Music Summer Festival in Helsinki.
Klaus Mäkelä has received support from the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben, Pro Musica Foundation, Wegelius Foundation, Jorma Panula Foundation and Sibelius Academy Foundation.
Klaus Mäkelä plays a Giovanni Grancino cello from 1698, kindly made available to him by the OP Art Foundation.
A high level of performance, led by Klaus Mäkelä, glowed with colour... Young Mäkelä delivered a masterpiece as an opera conductor. — Helsingin Sanomat, May 2017
Oulu Symphony Orchestra seemed obviously liberated by the Mäkelä's energy, particularly in Beethoven's Symphony No.7 Op.92 in which the jubilation could be sensed throughout the whole hall. — Kaleva newspaper, January 2017
Our country's music education system has produced a number of internationally successful conductors. The latest addition is 20-year-old Klaus Mäkelä. With a bright talent and determination he captured the audience of the Kymi Sinfonietta concert. His bold movements encouraged the Orchestra to play with real feeling. — Kymen Sanomat, October 2016
Mäkelä conducted gloriously – self confident and powerful, but at the same time graceful and controlled. — Rondo Classic, March 2016
The young Klaus Mäkelä is a great conducting talent. His debut with Tapiola Sinfonietta showed that in front of the orchestra he has a natural authority. His musical abilities are so strong that it's easy for him to gain the trust of the musicians. In Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana and Arensky's Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, he demonstrated his fine sense of phrasing, sound, rhythm and nuance. — Helsingin Sanomat, January 2016
Klaus Mäkelä is an extraordinary talent, who will go far. He manages to channel his musical expression in a constructive way. — Huvudstadsbladet, January 2016
You can already now say that Klaus Mäkela is a true conductor. — Turun Sanomat, March 2015
Gubaidulina's score provided ample opportunity to showcase cellist Klaus Mäkelä's formidable talents: the controlled swells of the opening, the clearly defined rapid pizzicato passages, and the sustained intensity during the broad ascending lines. — Resmusica, July 2014
Klaus Mäkelä, only 18 years old, played Dvořák's Cello Concerto totally sovereignly. — Turun Sanomat, February 2014
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