The new season started well last night with a presentation by Ed Tinline of the
music of Sibelius. His music is familiar enough of course and it got a good hearing at this year’s proms concerts in honour of his 150th anniversary. He is Finland’s most famous composer although curiously, he spoke Swedish – a reflection of that country’s complex history.
Ed had just returned from Lahti in Finland where he attended the anniversary festival there. He selected for the Society music played at that festival which mixed familiar works with several less well known. It is often a curious fact that even top flight composers have a body of work which may seldom if ever be heard. This might be because it received a poor review when it was first performed or because the composer was unhappy with it and it was ‘withdrawn’.
The evening started with a performance of the Wood Nymph from 1894 performed by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Otto Vänskä in a world premier recording made in 1996, that is a century after it was composed. At 21 minutes it was quite long but contained much interesting and delightful music. It is a mystery why Sibelius never arranged for its publication but it might be because he was unsure of its merit.
After the second movement of Symphony No 3 we heard two songs sung by Lilli Paassikivi: Since then I have questioned no further and Astray from a set of songs opus 17.
Another rarely heard piece was Oceanides a ‘Rondo of the Waves’ by the same orchestra and conductor, recorded in 2003. Originally written in D Flat major, Sibelius transcribed it into D major for its first performance in the States because of the difficulty for the strings in playing it in the original key. It was favourably received.
We also heard the fourth movement from the familiar Symphony No 6 under Otto Kamu recorded last year and the evening finished with Andante Festivo op 34 performed by Tempera String Quartet.
The Society’s new season got off to a flying start on Monday night with a presentation by Frida Backman of the Backman Trio. The substance of her talk was the making of a music CD which rather underplays what might have been a rather workmanlike presentation. However, it was much more than that. Frida had uncovered a previously unpublished work by Sibelius no less, which they had managed to piece together and perform as part of their first CD.
Frida won’t be unknown to local music lovers and only last Friday, she performed with Salisbury based pianist Lynda Smith in Sarum College as part of their lunch time series of concerts. The Trio was founded in 2009 in London by British pianist Marcus Andrews, Finnish violinist Freda Backman and British cellist, Ruth Beedham. In 2014 they returned to Finland and performed at the Aino Atke festival in Helsinki as part of the CD launch. With financial support from the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, the group was able to resurrect the composer Eric Bergman’s piano Trio No 2 of which we heard an extract. Bergman (1911 – 2006) is another of those composers of whom little is heard today but he has a large repertoire of work.
Frida went through the lengthy process of making a CD and included a discussion of the differences between a live and studio performance. With the former of course, there is only one chance and the tension is high to get it right. A studio performance on the other hand involves many hours of takes and retakes and keeping the performance fresh can be difficult to achieve. Unless one is lucky to have a recording contract, there are the costs to consider and then how to launch and promote the finished thing.
The evening ended with a performance of a previously unknown work by Sibelius – Fantasia, performed by the group. It was remarkably accessible and the recording was – in the opinion of the writer – clear, well balanced and bright. It is available from the Collectors Room in Salisbury UK.