HPO MADE PROMS DEBUT WITH ESA-PEKKA SALONEN 9.9.2005
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra made its debut at the world-famous BBC Proms on September 9, 2005 with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. The soloist at the concert was the Swedish trumpet virtuoso Håkan Hardenberger who premiered the trumpet concerto “From the Wreckage” by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the concert at Finlandia Hall on Sunday September 4. This new work at the concert ending the 2005 Helsinki Festival was commissioned jointly by the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Proms.
The other soloist at the Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall on September 9, the Norwegian soprano Solveig Kringelborn, sang Sibelius’s “Luonnotar”. The programme began with Claude Debussy’s “La mer” and ended with two orchestral suites from the ballet music “Daphnis et Chloé” by Maurice Ravel, performed in partnership with the Crouch End Festival Chorus. The concert was broadcast and televised live.
Radiance and wreckage
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra brought a predominantly French programme to last night’s penultimate Prom, shrewdly framing the concert with two works that tied in with this season’s themes – the sea and fairytales. Debussy’s La mer was one; the pair of suites from Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé was the other.
The triptych of pieces in La mer might represent one of the peaks of musical Impressionism, but the impressions were crystal clear in this excellent, translucent performance conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Whether in the dawn murmurings of De l’aube à midi sur la mer, or in the more threatening gusts and surge of breakers in Dialogue du vent et de la mer, there was a real sense here of Debussy’s extraordinary capacity to evoke the inexorable, unfathomable power of the sea and of light glinting off its surface.
The orchestra also brought character and colour to Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, balancing the music’s Classical delicacy, fragrant languor and vigorous sensuality, to which, in the final frenetic Danse générale, the wordless voices of the Crouch End Festival Chorus added a further dimension of ecstasy.
(Daily Telegraph 10.9.2005 / Geoffrey Norris)
PROM 73: Helsinki PO / Salonen
At nearly the end of the 111th Proms season – a bracing musical “sea” voyage that got off to a rocky start with the London bombings – Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new piece From the Wreckage defied any nautical expectation. No stormy Turneresque experience for him, it was actually inspired by his own life. It provided the trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger with a breathtaking opportunity to show off his technique, tone and gift for jazzy improvisation.
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and though Debussy’s La mer seemed to drift along, both were at their best in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe ballet suites. The sound was seductively atmospheric in the refined radiance of Salonen’s approach and the orchestra’s vibrant response.
(The Independent 12.9.2005 / Lynne Walker)
Royal Albert Hall, London
“From the Wreckage” is Mark-Anthony Turnage's new trumpet concerto, written for the Swedish virtuoso Hakan Hardenberger, who gave the UK premiere on Friday with the Helsinki Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen.
The concerto depicts a psychological journey from sorrow to calm via barely repressed anger and rage, its emotional trajectory delineated by the fact that Hardenberger opens the work playing a dark-sounding flugelhorn, which he changes first for a standard trumpet during the agitated central section, then for an ethereal-sounding piccolo trumpet in the closing pages.
Salonen grouped this with three works written in the early years of the 20th century. The brass took a while to settle in the first movement of La mer, though thereafter every detail of Debussy's great seascape was perfectly and beautifully realised. The two suites from Ravel's Daphnis and Chloë glowed with a fiery sensuality.
The third work was Luonnotar, Sibelius's weird depiction of Finnish creation myths. The soprano soloist, accurate if occasionally tentative, was Solveig Kringelborn. Salonen's conducting was little short of astonishing as the rustling orchestral sound created a sense of uncanny mysteries.
(The Guardian 12.9.2005 / Tim Ashley)
Flash floods in West London kept audience numbers down for this vaguely watery Prom, a welcome transfer from the Helsinki Festival. Esa-Pekka Salonen has re-emerged recently as a composer but his interpretative manner remains much as it always has been. Directing the competent but lightweight Helsinki Philharmonic without the use of a baton, he elicited sophisticated results without necessarily plumbing unsuspected depths.
La mer was fresh and brisk with a glorious blaze of sunlight at the end of the first movement and no lack of finesse or élan. This was a much more sheerly enjoyable account than that offered by Sir Simon Rattle’s recalcitrant Berliners last year. In ‘Dialogue du vent et de la mer’, Salonen favoured a radical drop in tempo for the central section, ushering in a beautifully articulated heat haze.
Håkan Hardenberger arrived with three instruments: flugelhorn, trumpet and piccolo trumpet, each to be deployed in turn as the mood brightened. As Turnage sought to ‘dispel the fears’ again with his familiar shell-shocked lyricism and jazz-tainted scoring, you could argue that this 15-minute piece offered nothing new. What it did do was confirm the fact that we have at least one composer whose instantly recognisable voice is here to stay.
The oceanic creation myth of “Luonnotar” opened the second half and one really felt for Turnage who stayed on to hear the rest of the concert. The sheer economy of Sibelius’s invention never ceases to amaze. More surprisingly perhaps, these performers actually had something new to say about it. Solveig Kringelborn, resplendent in turquoise blue though less vocally secure than some protagonists, contributed a childlike innocence and vulnerability that I found very touching, while Salonen showed real musicianship in never drowning out his soloist. The steely brilliance we usually expect in this score was exchanged for a gentler narrative style.
Ravel’s pagan passions seemed thematically unrelated. Here was more material for the conductor to demonstrate his control of texture as well as the kind of boyish virtuoso brilliance that delights in extremes of tempo. The orchestra responded in kind notwithstanding a few flaws. The encores were a beautifully poised and translucent conversation between ‘Beauty and the Beast’ from Ravel’s Ma mère l'oye and some hell-for-leather Sibelius, Lemminkäinen's Return, obviously (too obviously?) designed to bring the house down.
(www.classicalsource.com 9.9.2005 / David Gutman)
The 2005 season has been good but not vintage. Attendances were certainly knocked by the London bombs, and two famous foreign orchestras fell far short of expectations.
Yet the last overseas visitor, the Helsinki Philharmonic, did impress under Esa-Pekka Salonen at the penultimate Prom. The highlight was From the Wreckage, a concerto written by Mark-Anthony Turnage for Håkan Hardenberger, the virtuosic Swedish trumpeter. Turnage’s recent work has been variable, but this was outstanding: a kind of rebirth piece in which the music begins hellishly but gradually picks up a bluesy swing as the soloist rhapsodically spirals higher and higher. I was mesmerised.
(The Times 12.9.2005 / Richard Morrison)