Programme Guide

Against the background of the current war in Ukraine, this concert conducted by Kirill Petrenko paid tribute to Northern and Eastern European composers whose homelands’ sovereignty has been threatened. This recording is of the Berlin performance of the programme which was also heard as the 2022 Europakonzert in Liepāja, Latvia.

Pēteris Vasks comes from Latvia, and Valentin Silvestrov, who has since emigrated to Germany, comes from Ukraine. The works performed by both composers were written in response to deaths in their personal lives. While Silvestrov’s Elegy, composed of delicately articulated fragmentary motifs, is played at a subdued volume throughout, Vasks’s Musica dolorosa escalates into a passage of cataclysmic intensity. Vasks has described the piece as his “most tragic opus”, but a moving cello solo in the middle section also expresses consolation.

The works by Leoš Janáček and Jean Sibelius also refer to wars and the struggle for self-determination – and suggest hope at the end. Janáček’s symphonic poem Taras Bulba is based on the story of the same name by Nikolai Gogol, who was born in what is now Ukraine. Written in the Czech composer’s unmistakable, starkly contrasting tonal language, the work ends with the apotheosis of the title character, who is anything but infallible.

Sibelius composed the first version of his orchestral piece Finlandia for an event demonstrating in favour of freedom of the press and against the supremacy of then Tsarist Russia. The main melody of the piece so accurately captured the feeling of Sibelius’s compatriots that a text was later added and a version for choir was created.

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