This year we immerse ourselves into the mystical and sacred by examining the existential dimensions of light in multi-modal musical works. In the core for this we find the music by Kaija Saariaho and Karlheinz Stockhausen – the festival will present works and productions by both and heard now for the first time in Finland. Being the composer in residence, Saariaho’s pieces are abundant in the festival programme. A well-anticipated world premiere by Alexander Schubert “Unity Switch” explores the possibilities of virtual reality and contemplates on interconnections of sound, light and movement while integrating the audience in the process of creation.
Festival theme explored in works by Saariaho and Stockhausen – Saariaho’s first stage work Study for life performed first time since 1981
The theme of the 2019 edition of the festival is The Grammar of Light. Light, in turn, has been a central theme in both our guest composers’, Kaija Saariaho’s and Karheinz Stockhausen’s repertoire. “Both composer have their own idiosyncratic relationship with light, linked with multiple layers of spirituality, sensuality and enlightenment. Both are also well known for their cooperation with close and trusty musician friends, like flutist Camilla Hoitenga who is also performing and teaching at the festival. It is also important to remember that the latest visit by the contemporary music superstar Stockhausen to Finland in Helsinki Biennale 1989 was curated by Kaija” – depicts the artistic director of the festival Johan Tallgren the themes and counterparts of the festival.
Light has a central role in many festival concerts. It is not only for creating atmosphere but exists as a equal partner with artists, sound and motion. In the opening concert on Tuesday 2nd July called “Signals and Sequences” video artist Klaas Verpoest conjures a three-dimensional cosmic space on the concert hall walls while trombonist Thomas R. Moore parcours and plays amongst the audience Signale zur Invasion simultaneously with the eight-channel work Oktohonie, both being parts of Stockhausen’s Licht cycle and its Dienstag (Tuesday), that is often described as “The day of War” in the septology. In the main concert of the festival on Saturday 6th July “The Heart of Darkness”, Saariaho’s first ever musical theatre piece Study for life for soprano, actor, electronics and lights is performed for the first time since its premiere in 1981 by Tuuli Lindeberg and a French collective La Chambre aux échos. The work is based on the famous poem by T. S. Eliot “The Hollow Men”. The staged version of Saariaho’s violin concerto Graal Théâtre is also extrapolated into a multi-sense experience with lights, videos and libretto by Aleksi Barrière. The production has already toured the world and as the soloist we hear Peter Herresthal, Uusinta Ensemble conducted by the devoted Time of Music fan Christian Karlsen.
On Wednesday 3rd July in “Play echoes of another person” we dive into communication with the great beyond. Premiered in the legendary EXPO70 in Osaka, the cult piece of the analogue era Stockhausen’s Poles is performed by Camilla Hoitenga, Taavi Kerikmäe and Tammo Sumera. The name of the concert derives from the composer’s notes for performers. In the concert the audience has a chance to dwell in cosmic spirals in the middle of numerous speakers around the hall. The other composers in the concert equally have their very own ways of communicating with the other side.
In the world premiere artist’s life is seen through VR glasses
In the co-commission by Time of Music and defunensemble the audience has a unique possibility to follow artists’ work inside their heads. In the performance created by the top name of diginative generation Alexander Schubert the musicians are connected to the audience by video glasses and intercoms. The whole experience is spontaneously co-created with all the participants reacting to each other’s gestures, sounds and visions. The premiered installation is on at Old School during Friday 5th and Saturday 6th July, the audience changed every fifteen minutes.
In duo concerts Finnish and international stars scoop up their co-operational relationships
The themes of the festival are also studied in many duo concerts at the festival. The long-lasting cooperations between artists transcend the hectic and superficial discourse of today and dive deep into the processes of creativity.
A grand name of improvisation in different acoustics and spaces John Butcher brings two of his close cooperation partners to the festival. The mutual trust with the partner enables a free improvisation reflecting on the space and time of the performance. In previous encounters with harpist Rhodri Davies, the saxophone has for example been used as a filter for the harp or the harp has been played by the air from the saxophone. What comes out of the duet by Buthcer and the master of live electronics Thomas Lehn is still a mystery. Concerts “Chaos is the Spectre” on Wednesday 3rd July and “Exuberation and Extinction” on Friday 5th July.
In the Church concert on Friday 5th July “Secret Voices” cellist Jakob Kullberg and violinist Aliisa Neige Barrière build a mosaic of Concordia by Kaija Saariaho – composed to them and performed for the first time in Finland – renaissance melodies by Tobias Hume arranged by Kullberg, Barrière and Saariaho, Secret Voices cycle by Per Nørgård and other Nordic works for solo violin or cello. The new arrangements and the interlaced structure takes us onto a trip through space and time.
In the intimate concert on Thursday 4th July duo Tuuli Lindeberg & Petri Kumela is joined by Camilla Hoitenga in Saariaho’s Adjö. The Nordic works of the concert “Nordic Dwellings” brush up the light of everyday toils while remembering the master of melancholy John Dowland. The concert also includes a world premiere by Øyvind Mælandin ”det du trodde du aldri ville huske”, commissioned by the duo.
As usual, the concert programme also includes final concerts of the courses held at the festival. In the final concert of the composer course Uusinta Ensemble plays world premieres by eight young composers. In the final concerts of the chamber music course we hear pieces by Saariaho and Stockhausen among others. What is going to happen in the final concert of the improvisation course we still do not know – there will be a lot of room for new encounters. The courses gathered more applicants than never before, over 123 applicants from 20 countries.