Sibelius & Rachmaninov - More about the evening's music and composers

Grażyna Bacewicz: Concerto for string orchestra

1. Allegro
2. Andante
3. Vivo

The Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz was at the beginning of her composing career influenced by Karol Szymanowski and by her teacher Nadia Boulanger. She later transitioned to a neoclassical style with folk music influences, and the neoclassical Concerto for String Orchestra (1948), inspired by Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and the Baroque concerto grosso, is her most frequently performed work.

The first movement offers expressions that are characteristic of this composer, with rippling tones with a ragged and rhythmic character; while in the second movement we are transported to a fascinating and lyrical soundscape. An energetic finale with intense dance rhythms and surprising twists rounds off this exciting work.

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 4 in A minor

I. Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio
II. Allegro molto vivace
III. Il tempo largo
IV. Allegro

After the deep dive into Bacewicz's fascinating sound worlds, we move a few decades back in history, to Sibelius' fourth symphony from 1911. The work then received a tentative reception, but is today counted among his foremost symphonies. The music is characterized by the tritone interval, known since the Middle Ages under the epithet "the devil in music", and the dissonant interval runs like a red thread through the piece and contributes to its melancholy atmosphere.

A few years earlier, Sibelius had an operation to remove a tumor from his throat, and perhaps the grating dissonances can be traced to a fear of the fragility of life. In the midst of all the warped harmonics, this is beautiful and comforting music that can enchant its listener with its chamber musical starkness. “The Fourth Symphony represents a very essential and large part of me; I'm sure I'm glad I wrote it," said Sibelius.

Sergei Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor

I. Allegro ma non tanto
II. Intermezzo
III. Finale

Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto was written for his first American tour and premiered in New York in 1909, with himself at the grand piano. The Russian composer was himself a gifted pianist and the work is considered one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the piano repertoire, but the multifaceted concerto is far from just an equilibrist parade number.

The ability to create romantic melodies was something of Rachmaninov's hallmark and the music is imbued with the nostalgic atmosphere he was such a master at evoking, but also contains optimism and joy. Rachmaninov claimed that the seductive opening theme that permeates the work had come to him "of its own accord", but musicologists have shown that the motif bears similarities to a church hymn in Russian Orthodox liturgical music.

Wille Matvejeff, conductor
Olli Mustonen, piano
Norrlandsoperans symfoniorkester

Grazyna Bacewicz, Concerto for string orchestra, 15 min
Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 4 in A minor, 35 min
Break 30 min
Sergej Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, 40 min