Ever since the compositions of Jean Sibelius became established on the international concert circuit, Finland has been one of the important musical nations in the classical music world. In the 2022/23 season alone, four Finnish conductors will make guest appearances with the Berliner Philharmoniker. They include Mikko Franck, who will lead this concert devoted entirely to the music of his homeland, and the Composer in Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is also active as a conductor.
Einojuhani Rautavaara’s 1953 composition A Requiem in Our Time impressed the then 88-year-old Sibelius so much that he recommended his young colleague for a scholarship at the renowned Juilliard School in New York. Scored for 13 brass instruments, timpani and percussion, the piece shows the originality and self-confidence of this youthful work. The rhythmic sharpness reminiscent of Igor Stravinsky contrasts with chorale-like and meditative passages.
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s composition Karawane for mixed choir and orchestra, premiered in 2014, is a setting of the poem of the same name by Hugo Ball, the founder of the Zurich Dada movement. The composer was inspired by the poem’s invented language to depict a process in which “words become music” (Salonen) and whispered passages become melodies.
The creation process of Jean Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony was accompanied by doubts, which also related to the composer’s relationship to the music of his time. Ultimately, the commitment to a musical language of his own, inspired by impressions of nature, prevailed. In 1919, after two fundamental revisions, Sibelius conducted the first performance of the final version of the symphony, which is still one of the composer’s most popular works today.