St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Baltic Sea Philharmonic

Marking 125 years since the birth of Sergei Prokofiev

Soloist: Alexander Toradze
Baltic Sea Philharmonic
Conductor: Kristjan Järvi

Sergei Prokofiev
Symphony No 1 in D Major, Classical, Op. 25
Piano Concerto No 3 in C Major, Op. 26

Arvo Pärt

Gediminas Gelgotas
Mountains. Waters (Freedom)

Igor Stravinsky
Suite from music for the ballet The Firebird (1945 version)

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About the Concert

Prokofiev’s interest in the orchestral compositions of the Viennese classics – first and foremost Haydn – emerged when he was a student at the St Petersburg Conservatoire in the conducting class of Nikolai Cherepnin. Prokofiev wrote that “It seemed to me that if Haydn had lived to the present day he would have retained his style of composition and accepted some of the new things that are going on. I wanted to compose just such a symphony – a symphony in the classical style.” This idea came to fruition several years later. The orchestral format chosen by Prokofiev for the Classical Symphony matches that of the Viennese classics – a dual formation of winds (without aspectual instruments and trombones), kettle drums and string section. The sequence of the movements, their form and their drama also generally follow the model typical of a classical Viennese symphony. Only the traditional minuet or scherzo (the 3rd movement) is replaced with a gavotte – a genre which later came to be Prokofiev’s “calling card”. The musical language, however, without any doubt whatsoever makes this symphony belong to 20th century music. The unexpected and vivid modulations and shifts into remote tonalities, the use of instruments in extreme virtuoso form and the ironic interpretation of the musical material are all features of Prokofiev’s style which by that time had become fully developed. Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony is not a direct stylisation influenced by Haydn but rather an experience of rethinking, a look back from the 20th century at his legacy. This approach heralded the movement in music that came to be known as neo-classicism.
Vladimir Khavrov

Three years after moving abroad (on a performing tour that lasted no more and no less than fifteen years), the thirty-year-old Sergei Prokofiev brought to life a longstanding vision – to write a “very passage-like” piano concerto, his third work in this genre. Having received a “poisonous” review, as the composer himself said, from the American press, the concerto nevertheless soon became one of Prokofiev the composer’s most famous pieces and the jewel in the crown of Prokofiev the pianist’s numerous concert performances. Possibly the reason behind the immense popularity of the Third Piano Concerto (1917–1921), in particular lies in the fact that the work was composed at the height of his creative career and combined “the still fervent ardour of his youthful temperament … with his emergent maturity and wisdom” (Boris Asafiev). The impetuous flow of contrasting themes that the audience hears – energetic and impassioned, sparkling with energy and mischief, lush and tangibly clear – forms a classically strict and proportionate composition of three sections that are ideally structured in terms of form. A supporter of “the new simplicity” in music, Prokofiev succeeded in expounding all of his musical discoveries with such incredible elegance and laconic brevity: there are no prolixities, general spaces or predictable turns in the concerto, and each musical idea is as if marked by the symbol nota bene and makes us listen to the twists and turns of Prokofiev’s inexhaustible imagination with unfailing interest.
Marina Iovleva

Pärt’s Swansong is an orchestral version of his own choral work Littlemore Tractus. Littlemore Tractus is based on a sermon by the English clergyman John Newman on the Gospel text “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10: 16). The sermon was given in the village of Littlemore in 1843, and in 1845 it was there that Newman announced that he was converting to Roman Catholicism, thus starting the “Oxford movement” aimed at reconciling the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. The premiere of Swansong took place as part of Mozart Week in Salzburg in 2014 where it was performed by the Wiener Philharmoniker.
Yekaterina Yusupova

Diaghilev’s Ballets russes production of The Firebird on 25 June 1910 at the Opéra de Paris proved a sensational success. Created in close co-operation with the choreographer Michel Fokine and the designer Golovin with outstanding ballet dancers, The Firebird was, in the words of one Parisian critic, “a miracle of the enchanting balance between movements, sounds and forms.” Soon after the premiere, Stravinsky composed the Firebird orchestral suite (1911), not just because of the success of the music but also due to his wish to perfect the music in the concert hall. In 1919 a new suite emerged in which the composer abandoned the grandiose full orchestra used in the score for the ballet. Twenty-five years later, in 1945, Stravinsky once again edited his orchestration of the suite.
Iosif Raiskin

About the performers

The Baltic Sea Philharmonic brings together leading orchestral musicians from the ten countries of the Baltic Sea region – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden. Under the leadership of Founding Conductor and Music Director Kristjan Järvi, the ensemble performs wide-ranging repertoire from across the region. It upholds the principle that music can unite people of all nationalities and backgrounds and change society for the better, especially in a region that has historically been divided.
The orchestra was born out of the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic (BYP), which was founded in 2008 by Festival Director Thomas Hummel together with the Usedom Music Festival and Nord Stream AG. Since then, BYP’s reputation and ambitions have grown steadily and it has toured the famous concert halls and festivals of Europe, including the White Nights arts festival in St Petersburg, the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm, the Bonn Beethovenfest and the Rheingau Music Festival. The orchestra has performed with the finest soloists in the world, among them Julia Fischer, Valentina Lisitsa, Jonas Kaufmann, Angela Gheorgiu and Daniel Hope. It has won international acclaim for its performances and its recent CD Baltic Sea Voyage on the French label Naïve, and in 2015 it was awarded the European Culture Prize in recognition of the impact it has made on the culture of the region.
Over time, the educational aspect of BYP’s work with eighteen to twenty-eight year-olds has intensified, with the formation of the BYP Academy, including its LAB workshops, composer programmes and mini master-class auditions, and in 2013 the Baltic Sea Music Education Foundation (BMEF) was formed to develop a consolidated music educational system for the region. In 2016 this led to the formation of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, made up of current BYP players and selected alumni from across the region, as a touring orchestra to complement the educational work of BYP.
For its inaugural tour in April 2016, Baltic Sea Landscapes, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic will tour to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Russia. The repertoire reflects the organisation’s championing of the environment – the sea, nature and landscapes, featuring Jean Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, Arvo Pärt’s Swansong, Stravinsky’s The Firebird and Gediminas Gelgotas’ Mountains. Waters. (Freedom) as well as works by Prokofiev, the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of whose birth the orchestra will celebrate on 23 April with a concert in Moscow. In September 2016 the ensemble will tour with the Baltic Sea Discovery programme throughout Central Europe, joined by Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica.
Musical Director and Conductor: Kristjan Järvi

Age category 6+

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