Helena Juntunen (soprano)
The Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Leif Segerstam
Vier Letzte Lieder for soprano and orchestra, TrV 296
Symphony No 272 Summer Screamings
Symphony No 1 in E Minor, Op. 39
The Turku Musical Society, which subsequently became the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded in 1790. As the oldest orchestra in Finland – and one of the oldest in the world – the ensemble continues to develop and flourish under the baton of renowned conductors. Over the course of its history it has premiered pieces by Jean Sibelius under the leadership of the composer himself and worked with such legendary conductors as Paavo Berglund and principal conductors including Tauno Hannikainen, Jorma Panula, Jacques Mercier and Hannu Lintu. Since 2012 the orchestra’s seventy-four musicians have been directed by world-renowned Principal Conductor Leif Segerstam. The orchestra’s resident composer is Mikko Heiniö.
The orchestra has toured to Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Belgium, Russia, Germany, Hungary and China. Several of its recordings have been awarded platinum discs and the orchestra has been widely acclaimed for its recording work. In 2009 the orchestra was awarded the EMMA Classical Album of the Year prize for the recording Transient Moods
featuring music by Pehr Henrik Nordgren.
In addition to weekly symphony concerts, often streamed live throughout the world, the orchestra’s chamber music ensembles perform in the many historical venues of Turku and the beautiful Finnish archipelago. The orchestra also organises concerts for the entire family and performs in opera productions. The Turku Philharmonic is a leader in audience accessibility, enabling public access to concerts online in hospitals, retirement homes and schools.
Vier Letzte Lieder for soprano and orchestra was Richard Strauss’ last completed work. In May 1948 he wrote the song Im Abendrot to lyrics by Joseph von Eichendorff, followed by Frühling, September and Beim Schlafengehen to lyrics by Hermann Hesse (moreover, September appeared last of all, namely in September that year). European romanticism did not survive the First World War, although Richard Strauss – even after the Second World War and at the end of his days – was able to revive the style of his youth, albeit not for very long, with its absolute beauty and perfection. In the song Im Abendrot we hear a short extract from Strauss’ own symphonic poem Tod und Verklärung (1889), while the start of the orchestral introduction was possibly influenced by the first phrase of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem: “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen.”
In terms of the number of symphonies he has composed, Leif Segerstam has long surpassed Joseph Haydn and Christian Cannabich. In 2013 he exceeded – exactly tenfold – the number on which Nikolai Myaskovsky once halted. And Segerstam has produced other cycles of works for orchestra, among them Impressions of Nordic Nature, Bouquets of Flowers and Epitaphs. Segerstam writes, as he breathes, instantly recording on sheet music the things that he dreams of and that come to his mind. Several symphonies carry the secondary title of “Page from a Diary”. The “technique of free pulsation”, which does not require the precise synchronisation of every voice of the orchestral fabric, allowed him to complete the score in roughly one week.
To a great extent, Segerstam has been fed by the tradition of Finnish pantheism that began with Jean Sibelius and continues with Einojuhani Rautavaara. For example, Symphony No 21 is called September – Visions at Korpijärvi. In the catalogue of his works one may see something speculative and hard to interpret, a kind of “belated thoughts asking a question” (Symphony No 23), and the more comprehensible “simply recalling...” (Symphony No 224). Symphony No 272 was entitled Summery Screamings.
In 1899 in Helsinki Jean Sibelius conducted the premiere of his First Symphony in E Minor. He had already won acclaim as the founder of the national Finnish style as the composer of Kullervo and the bewitching The Swan of Tuonela. On the eve of the new century, however, the composer set out to discover a new way – in terms of pure symphonism. Moreover, he had always been drawn to Russian music. The main theme of the first movement (Allegro energico) is closely associated with the main theme of Borodin’s First Symphony. The solo clarinet in the first movement is a clear reference to the theme of the clarinet in the introduction of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (also composed in E Minor). Tchaikovsky again springs to mind in the festive episodes of the Allegro energico, the mourning start of the finale and the wonderful and magical pages of the second movement. When Sibelius commenced work on his First Symphony he sketched out a programme for it which he subsequently rejected. The second movement was initially associated in the composer’s mind with Heine’s poem Der Fichtenbaum und die Palme and – arguably – northern daydreams of the South are truly brought to life in the music of the Andante.