Latvian and Estonian musicians in the prominent Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm
On Thursday, 23 August at 7 p.m. the audience of the Baltic Sea Festival (Östersjöfestivalen), one of the top musical gatherings in Northern Europe, flocked to Stockholm’s Berwaldhallen for a special event – concert dedicated to the centenary of the Baltic States. The concert programme was curated by conductor Normunds Šnē and performed by State Chamber Orchestra Sinfonietta Rīga and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.
The concert honoured the genius born among historical collisions of the 20th century – Béla Bartók and Bohuslav Martinů, and two modern grand-masters from the Baltics – Pēteris Vasks and Erkki-Sven Tüür. The chamber orchestras from Riga and Tallinn were joined by the acclaimed French violinist Marc Bouchkov for the performance of Pēteris Vasks’ violin concerto “Distant Light”.
This was already the third time Sinfonietta Rīga visited the Baltic Sea Festival that each summer rallies the top musicians, orchestras and choirs from across the Northern Europe to Sweden’s capital Stockholm, and this rendezvous with Swedish public was especially significant as this year’s festival was dedicated to the centenaries of the Baltic States.
Sinfonietta Rīga travelled to Stockholm together with their longtime collaborators and friends – Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, with whom Latvian musicians have shared the stage in numerous joint concert programs as well as international fame as the recipients of the prestigious Grammy Award for recording of Arvo Pärt’s “Adam’s Lament”. The double-sized orchestra comprised of Latvian and Estonian musicians presented the festival audience with a concert programme curated by Normunds Šnē, first performed in March of 2016 in the Great Guild Hall in Riga and concert hall “Estonia” in Tallinn.
The program’s core was one of the most acclaimed compositions of the passionate Hungarian grand-master Béla Bartók – “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” written in 1936. In its turn, Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů’s “Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani” which uses “conversation” between two string orchestras in its compositional structure, was written in 1938, at a politically strained time; with its dramatic oppositions and musical saturation it is very close to the style and character of Bartok’s music.
Along with the masterpieces of world music, the distinct original sound of Baltics was proudly and confidently presented in the programme. Latvian Pēteris Vasks and Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür exemplify the introverted, meditative sound of the Eastern Baltic region, pulsating with the vibrations of the forest and the sea. It is a voice that is deeply focused on the essential; melancholic, persistent and tenacious at the same time it is highly regarded by the audiences in Europe and across the world. In the concert, Sinfonietta Rīga performed Pēteris Vasks’ popular violin concerto “Distant Light”, with the acclaimed French violinist with Russian roots, Marc Bouchkov, as the soloist. His performance captivated even the hardest to please members of the audience, showing astonishing mastery of every nuance and cadenza of the composition. The composer was present among the listeners, and was received with resounding ovations by the Berwaldhallen’s audience.
Baltic Sea Festival was founded in 2003 by Michael Tydén, then managing director of Berwaldhallen, together with such prominent figures of the classical music world as the longtime artistic director of Los Angeles Philharmonic, conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the artistic director of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev. Since the very beginning one of the central themes of the festival has been ecology of the Baltic Sea and promotion of enthusiastic regional collaboration on the issues of environmental sustainability, attested by the fact that among the festival’s patrons is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).