Programme Guide

The Munich-based German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott and the Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, currently chief conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, make their debuts with the Berliner Philharmoniker. What the two have in common? Both were taken along to a classical concert by their parents as children – and were immediately electrified by the music. Alice Sara Ott knew from that moment on she wanted to become a pianist; Santtu-Matias Rouvali became interested in percussion and conducting. He started his musical career as a percussionist and gradually turned more toward conducting. In an interview with the Bavarian broadcasting service, he describes the profession with the following words: “70 percent of our work is that of a psychologist, winning over other people for your own cause.”

Santtu-Matias Rouvali considers himself, furthermore, an ambassador for the music of Finland: “I always like to bring along a piece from my home country.” Thus, he will start the programme with two movements from the atmospherically dense, superbly orchestrated Kalevala Suite by Uuno Klami, an important 20th-century Finnish composer, who was inspired by the famous Finnish national epic in terms of content, but musically follows the models of Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel. That comes as no surprise, as Klami was a student of Ravel in Paris. His piano concerto in G major is one of Alice Sara Ott’s showpieces: she will render the work brilliantly, with a transparent sound. According to Ravel, the concerto was composed in the spirit of “Mozart and Saint-Saëns”; it melds elements of the classical concerto with jazz elements in a congenial manner, including Basque and Spanish folk music as well.

The programme concludes with Jean Sibelius’s First Symphony. After a series of tone poems, in 1898 the Finnish composer turned during his stay in Berlin to the symphony genre. With this work he paid homage to the genre traditions of that time: the beginning with its long and discursive, dreamy clarinet solo reminds one of Peter Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony; the descending sighing motif of the main theme seems taken from Edvard Grieg. All the same, Sibelius in his first symphony shows himself to be a composer with his own, nationally and romantically characteristic tonal language. Santtu-Matias Rouvali has already proven himself a gifted Sibelius interpreter in a recording of the work with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. “High-voltage Sibelius, subtle, electrifying. More of this please!”, were the words of a review on Bavarian Radio.

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