Minnesota Orchestra opens three-week celebration of Sibelius on New Years Eve

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Jean Sibelius is a house specialty at Orchestra Hall.

During Osmo Vänskä’s 19 years as Music Director, the Minnesota Orchestra interpretations by the Finnish national composer brought the ensemble international fame, as well as a Grammy Award and other accolades.

Starting Friday evening, audiences will have the opportunity to deepen the orchestra’s mastery of Sibelius, as Vänskä conducts a three-week Sibelius Festival that will present the composer’s seven symphonies, two versions of his Violin Concerto with soloist Elina Vähälä, and a collection of “Humoresques”, with violinist Stella chen.

Sam Bergman was part of the orchestra’s evolution into a large Sibelius orchestra, performing as part of the viola section, but also organizing his entertaining and insightful presentations “Inside the Classics”.

“I actually grew up thinking that I really didn’t like Sibelius,” Bergman said. “And that’s because I grew up with the recordings my parents had. They were those very heavy, overworked performances where everything was sort of stretched to its maximum as if to convey importance through slowness.…

“It wasn’t until college, when I started hearing Sibelius with Finnish conductors, that I realized that there was a flow to it, a tempo that made sense for me.”

We asked Bergman to guide us through the Sibelius symphonies. Here are excerpts from our discussion, with the dates on which the symphonies will be performed.

Symphony n ° 1: “For me, the most memorable part of the First Symphony is the Scherzo. And how many times can you say that? Even in symphonies with memorable scherzos – like Beethoven Nine – this is not the movement to which all the world thinks. But this is where the beat comes in. If you play it like Osmo and a lot of other Finnish conductors do, it’s demonic. It feels like something is chasing you. ” (January 7-8)

No. 2: “Opening up for me as a string player is like anything string players are supposed to do. It’s that warm, liquid sound that simply envelops the audience in a big hug. … The second’s most popular movement is almost certainly the finale, which is the great brass band, but that can’t happen without the first movement immersing you in this sonic world. “(31 Dec-Jan 1)

No. 3: “Sibelius seems to be saying, ‘Yeah, that big, lush thing I gave you a minute ago? Enjoy it, but now here’s a bunch of impenetrable. Good luck.’ It is deeply strange. ” (January 13-14)

Number 4: “It starts with a cello solo which, depending on how you shape it, is either incredibly menacing or incredibly austere. And those are sort of your two choices. It’s just the desperation of humanity.… All of it. symphony, it feels like you’re waiting for the dark to do that Beethoven thing, to switch to the light. And you don’t. It kind of stays dark. “(January 13-14)

No. 5: For the festival finale, Bergman will host an “Inside the Classics” style concert built around this symphony. “I’ve always wanted to do a show with Osmo on Sibelius Five. It’s my favorite symphony from any composer. I think it’s perfect. I won’t hear a word against it.… But what What’s fascinating about it is that he’s written it twice. And that’s what we’re going to get into in this show – that there is an earlier version that no one is allowed to play anymore. Osmo, from what I understand. “(January 15-16)

Number 6: “There are endings to movements in Sibelius’ symphonies that don’t end, they just stop. And this is the Sixth. At this point, Sibelius has completely abandoned normal symphonic forms. The Sixth therefore falls into the impenetrable bucket. themes, but, again, these are fragments. I think the Sixth finale is the most traditionally melodic one, but even there there is that obscurity. It’s just a little sad, especially for a final. “(January 7-8)

No. 7: “This is the one Sibelius nerds love to tell you is their favorite. He really condensed the value of a symphony into one movement, but he also sort of did the Beethoven thing by flatly refusing to give you a hummable melody. It’s basically an entire symphony built on tempo rather than melody, but it’s epic.

“It was 1924, a time when so many composers were doing interesting things with less. [Richard] Strauss and Mahler, for whom everything has become bigger and bigger and longer and longer. And then there is this whole generation of composers who have gone the other way, like Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. Sibelius fits into this interesting place between these generations. Sometimes he wants to go back to that romantic tradition and sometimes he wants to be with the challengers, with those looking to reinvent music. “(31 Dec-Jan 1)

Minnesota Orchestra Sibelius Festival

When: 8:30 p.m. Fri, 2 p.m. Sat Continues from January 7 to 16.

Or: Orchestra hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Tickets: $ 30 to $ 130, 612-371-5656 or minnesotaorchestra.org

Live broadcast: 8:30 p.m. Fri, TPT-MN, and streaming on mnorch.vhx.tv

Change of program : Finnish soprano Helena Juntunen was due to perform songs by Sibelius this weekend, but had to cancel due to visa delays linked to COVID. Instead, violinist Stella Chen will play Sibelius Humoresques Nos. 2 to 6.

Rob Hubbard is a classical music writer from Twin Cities. [email protected].


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