Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Baltic Sea Festival



April 22, 2008
ARTS + FEATURES


Celebrating the Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea Festival of classical music continues its mission to unite the peoples and cultures of the Baltic area.
By Galina Stolyarova

The Baltic Sea Festival — an annual classical music event with an environmental bent that runs under the joint leadership of Mariinsky Theater artistic director Valery Gergiev, Finnish-born conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and Michael Tyden, managing director of Stockholm’s Berwaldhallen concert hall — began in Stockholm on Thursday.
Running through Aug. 30 the festival, which has been held each year since 2003, has become a prestigious classical music event that assembles international stars of the caliber of Gergiev, Salonen, Estonian conductor Paavo Jarvi, British percussionist Evelyn Glennie, Danish violinist Nikolai Znaider, French pianist Helene Grimaud and Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
The festival was created with the eye to campaign for the endangered marine environment of the Baltic Sea — arguably the most polluted sea on the planet — through the universal language of music.
The development of the Baltic Sea Festival into a versatile multi-location international event has been rapid. Its founders now say their brainchild has reached its ideal size and the task facing them now is to balance the input of the growing numbers of new participants.
The festival’s opening concert on Thursday saw Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in the program of Haydn’s Sinfonia concert, Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra Op. 31 and Brahms’s Symphony No 4.
“The Baltic Sea Festival is an event that is growing and thriving,” Tyden said. “When we began to outline our plans for this festival some years ago, our basic assumption was that music could unite us. This year we are presenting for the sixth time a festival that is attracting more and more people to a sense of community.”
The Mariinsky Theater’s contribution this year will be a concert performance of Richard Strauss’ “Elektra,” one of the company’s most successful recent shows, on Aug. 29 in Berwaldhallen. The Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Gergiev will also perform at the closing concert of the festival in Berwaldhallen on Aug. 30 in a program of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker suite,” Shchedrin: concerto for orchestra No. 1, Naughty Limericks and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherezade.”
The festival organizers originally wanted to present prominent musicians from the Baltic Sea area in an event that emphasized the cultural richness and enormous diversity of the region.
“Originally the idea was of lots of musicians, composers, orchestras and choirs building bridges, with the performers moving about freely,” Salonen said. “That would prove — in both practical and symbolic terms — that the Baltic has now once again become an area that shares a common culture.”
The ecological rescue of the Baltic Sea region requires a consistent joint effort from all countries of the region, but not all of the coastal states are taking part in environmental clean-up and revival projects. Russia, the country responsible for the lion’s share of the pollution, has shown little enthusiasm for combating the consequences.
During the course of the festival Salonen will conduct the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra as well as the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which will be presented a second time under the leadership of Daniel Harding. Olari Elts will travel to Stockholm with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra and Krzysztof Penderecki with the Sinfonia Varsovia.
The festival will see two world premieres: “Holocene,” a film-concert in the form of an oratorio by author Majgull Axelsson, composer Jonas Bohlin and video artist Lars Siltberg, and “The Polar Sea” by the Swedish composer Klas Torstensson.
Classical music cruises organized by the festival in collaboration with Silja Line this year create musical links between Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga.
“The universal language of music has no political restrictions, and can easily reach people across language barriers,” Salonen said. “I believe that a festival of this size can spark a shared desire to improve the deteriorating Baltic Sea environment.”
Gergiev believes the political climate in the region has improved immensely and makes the musician hopeful about stronger integration in the future, in both cultural and political terms. The Mariinsky Theater always funds its own tours to the Baltic Sea Festival as part of its endeavors to help saving the Baltic.

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