Sibelius' stage tableaux
8.573299 - Kuolema • King Christian II (Vol. 1)
Jean Sibelius was the most significant figure in the formation of Finland’s musical identity. Beyond the famous symphonies and tone poems he was prolific in other genres, including music for the theatre. King Christian II and Kuolema ensured Sibelius’s fame throughout Europe, the latter including the haunting melody (track 2) which would later become the Valse triste. The Two Songs from Twelfth Night contrast the spectre of death with more comical moods, an effect also to be heard in one of Sibelius’s least performed orchestral works, the Overture in A minor.
"Segerstam's conducting...is lovingly shaped...always attentive to the music's colours and moods."
8.573300 - Belshazzar’s Feast • Cortège (Vol. 2)
Alongside the great symphonies and tone poems, music for the theatre played an influential rôle in Sibelius’s development. From exquisite nocturnal tranquility to the macabre ‘Dance of Life’, Belshazzar’s Feast is an exotic tale of seduction and tragedy to which Sibelius responded with some of his most hauntingly beautiful writing for the stage. The early Menuetto and good-humored Cortège were considered good enough by the composer to be recycled for further stage productions, while the Overture in E and elegantly sinister Scène de Ballet started life as Sibelius’s first attempt at composing a symphony.
"Segerstam has become one of the very finest Sibelius conductors, and his Turku orchestra rightly plays as if these were all major works, making this highly recommendable." - BBC Music Magazine
8.573301 -Pelléas et Mélisande (Vol. 3)
No sooner had Sibelius moved to the town of Järvenpää in 1904 than he was commissioned by the Swedish Theatre to write incidental music for Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande. At the time it was his most ambitious undertaking in the genre of incidental music and his setting included ten scenes, only one of which was cut when he adapted the piece as a concert suite. Dating from the same year, Musik zu einer Szene was originally intended to accompany a tableau and is full of striking contrasts. The two waltzes of 1921 are transcriptions of piano pieces, and reveal the potent influence of Tchaikovsky.
"The performances are simply as fine as they can be." - ClassicsToday.com
8.573340 - Jedermann • Two Serious Melodies (Vol. 4)
Rarely performed but recognized as a hidden masterpiece, Sibelius’s score for Jedermann is unusual in that the music closely follows the words and action of this morality play, intensifying Everyman’s hubris, penance, escape from the Devil’s clutches and ultimate salvation. The Two Serious Melodies reflect Sibelius’ dark mood during the difficult years of World War I, while In memoriam resonates with his preoccupation with death in 1909 following a life-saving throat operation, and was performed at his own funeral in 1957.
"Segerstam gives an emotional and beautifully spirited account of [Jedermann]" - Pizzicato
8.573341 - Swanwhite • The Lizard (Vol 5.)
So great was the effect of Sibelius’s incidental music for Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas et Mélisande that August Strindberg, whose wife had performed the role of Mélisande, agreed that he should write the music for his as-yet unperformed play Svanevit (Swanwhite). Composing for an orchestra of thirteen he wrote in a style reminiscent of Grieg, and both play and music were very well received by critics and audiences alike. The play Ödlan (The Lizard) inspired Sibelius with its dreamlike atmosphere, while Ett ensamt skidspår (A Lonely Ski Trail) and Grevinnans konterfej (The Countess’ Portrait) show his skill in writing for drama on a miniature scale.
"Leif Segerstam directs all this material with unhurried authority, abundant perception and heaps of character."
8.573511 - Scaramouche (Vol. 6)
The eloquent power of Jean Sibelius’s symphonies and other core orchestral works has overshadowed his prolific output in other genres, including significant scores for the theatre. The commission to compose music for the tragic pantomime Scaramouche caused Sibelius much stress and frustration, but on its première the composer was able to note “great success in Copenhagen” in his diary. With the exception of his one opera, Scaramouche is Sibelius’s only continuous dramatic score, the story of the sinister hunchbacked dwarf’s bewitching musicianship and evil intent taking us from innocent charm to a nightmarish conclusion.
Sari Nordqvist • Riko Eklundh • Tuomas Katajala • Nicholas Söderlund • Mikaela Palmu
About Leif Segerstam
Leif Segerstam is a conductor, composer, violinist and pianist with a prominent international career. He received diplomas from the Sibelius Academy in violin and conducting, and rounded off his studies at The Juilliard School in New York, where he was awarded a conducting diploma. Segerstam has conducted in most of the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and La Scala. Since 2012 he has been Chief Conductor of Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2004 Leif Segerstam was awarded the annual Finnish State Prize for Music and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. He has gained wide acclaim for his many recordings with different orchestras. While pursuing his conducting career, Segerstam has also produced an extensive oeuvre as a composer.
The Turku Musical Society, which later formed the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded in 1790. As the oldest orchestra in Finland, the ensemble continues to develop and flourish under the baton of renowned conductors. Since 2012, the orchestra’s 74 musicians have been under the artistic leadership of Leif Segerstam. The orchestra’s resident composer is Mikko Heiniö. Several of the Turku Philharmonic’s recordings have won platinum and other awards. In 2009 the orchestra was awarded the EMMA Classical Album of the Year for the recording Transient Moods by Pehr Henrik Nordgren.
About Pia Pajala
A graduate of the opera programme at the Sibelius Academy, Finland, Pia Pajala is a versatile performer known for her wide vocal range, powerful expression and extensive repertoire. Pia Pajala has appeared in many operatic roles especially in contemporary works. She has also worked with some of Finland’s most respected conductors, including Sakari Oramo, Leif Segerstam and Santtu-Matias Rouvali, having performed as a soloist with such orchestras as the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra. A renowned interpreter of Sibelius and Finnish classical music, she regularly performs with chamber ensembles.
About Waltteri Torikka
The baritone Waltteri Torikka is quickly establishing himself as one of the most promising new talents in the next generation of opera singers from Finland. He was named Young Musician of the Year 2014 by the Finnish Pro Musica Foundation and is the recipient of the 2013 Martti Talvela Foundation Award. He was awarded the 2009 HSBC laureates’ prize at the prestigious Mozart Academy of the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, and has appeared with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Jyväskylä Sinfonia, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie and Camerata Salzburg, as well as working with conductors including Mikko Franck, Ville Matvejeff, Louis Langrée and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
About Sari Nordqvist
The Finnish mezzo-soprano Sari Nordqvist studied at the Sibelius Academy. Operatic rôles she has undertaken since 1994 include her début at the Finnish National Opera in 1999 in the rôle of Vera Boronel (The Consul). Awards include the Finnish Opera Union prize, Operasinger 1998, for her performance as Ulrica (Un ballo in maschera), and her recordings include rôles in Erkki Melartin’s Aino (BIS), Mikko Heiniö’s The Knight and the Dragon (BIS), and The Hunt of King Charles by Fredrik Pacius (Naxos 8.660122-23), as well as the rôle of Brigitte in Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, a DVD for Opus Arte. She also has a busy schedule in the concert hall.
About Riko Eklundh
Riko Eklundh was born in Helsinki in 1965 and graduated from the Helsinki Theatre Academy in 1989. He started his professional career at Åbo Svenska Teater and has varied his career between permanent and freelance engagements, particularly working at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki. He has also worked at the Theatre Viirus, Lilla Teatern, Espoo City Theatre and at the Wasa Theatre. Relevant musical rôles include the part of Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Motel in Fiddler on the Roof, Albin/Zaza in La Cage aux Folles and the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. Important stage rôles include leading characters in Amadeus, Topelius, Peer Gynt, Den dansande prästen and Kontrakt med Gud. In addition he has contributed to many TV series and movies. He has also worked with radio, documentaries and as a solo artist and as narrator with different choirs and orchestras.
About Tuomas Katajala
Winner of several prizes and scholarships, the tenor Tuomas Katajala studied singing at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and continued his education in Rome and Amsterdam. He served as a soloist at the Finnish National Opera from 2009 to 2014, and his repertoire includes rôles such as Libenskof (Il viaggio a Reims), Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Yonas (Adriana Mater, by Saariaho), Fenton (Falstaff), Ferrando (Così fan tutte) and Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore). He has performed at the Norske Opera, National Reisopera Enschede and Savonlinna Opera Festival, with rôles including Henry Morosus (Die schweigsame Frau), Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte) and David (Die Meistersinger). He has appeared in numerous concerts and recitals in Finland and abroad. His repertoire also includes contemporary music, with recordings of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s opera Auringontalo and The King goes forth to France by Aulis Sallinen.
About Nicholas Söderlund
Bass Nicholas Söderlund started his singing studies at the Turku Conservatory and the Sibelius Academy youth education with Hannu Kerkola and Sauli Tiilikainen. He continued his studies at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg with Heiner Hopfner. After returning to Finland, Söderlund studied at the Sibelius Academy with Peter Lindroos and Erkki Rajamäki, graduating in 2008. In 2006 he won second prize at the Lappeenranta Singing Competition and was second prize winner at the international Sibelius Singing Competition in 2007. Söderlund received the Finnish Wagner Society’s Bayreuth Scholarship and Martti Talvela Foundation award in 2007 and the Karita Mattila Scholarship in 2009. He is an active concert singer and has performed as a soloist with many Finnish orchestras. He made his professional opera début at the Finnish National Opera in 2007 as Wachtmeister in Fredrik Pacius’s opera Kung Karls jakt and since then has been a regular guest there. He has made several recordings for the Finnish Broadcasting Company and is a particularly active performer of contemporary Finnish music.
About Mikaela Palmu
Mikaela Palmu began her violin studies at the Turku Conservatory in 1980 when she was seven years old, and continued her studies at the Sibelius Academy in 1985. In addition to attending several master-classes, Palmu has studied under the tutelage of Tiina Hanhinen, Igor Bezrodny and Erkki Kantola, among others. Mikaela Palmu performs regularly as a chamber musician with a variety of ensembles. She was a member of the orchestra of the Finnish National Opera from 1994 to 2008 and has been a member of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra since 2009.
The symphonic choir Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis (CCA) was established in 1982 for skilled amateur singers. The choir was named after Turku Cathedral, and its main functions are performing in special services of the Cathedral and cooperating with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra (TFO). The choir has already performed over 130 times with the TFO. While maintaining a close association with the TFO, the choir has also partnered other leading Finnish orchestras, including the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, and the Jyväskylä Sinfonia. Internationally, CCA has worked with many orchestras, including the Orchestre National de Lorraine. At the heart of the choir’s repertoire are choral masterpieces and major works of church music for chorus and orchestra. During its 32 year history, CCA has performed with numerous acclaimed Finnish and international soloists. The choir has also organised a cappella concerts, with works such as Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Vigil, and performed as an opera choir. Since 2008, the choir has been conducted and trained by Timo Lehtovaara.
"Inkinen and the NZSO continue to be a most impressive team of Sibelius
"Extremely clear, flowing, with great attention paid to details of string
phrasing and articulation."
"The orchestra is excellent. Not a note, a turn of phrase, or any detail of
execution is out of place."
- American Record Guide