Last weekend I had a chance to experience an extraordinary concert tour ‘Nordic Pulse Tour’ at the Estonia Concert Hall. The Estonian musician and composer Mick Pedaja, Swiss violinist David Nebel and conductor Kristjan Järvi were performing with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic.
Contagious passion and energy
In addition to Tallinn, the ‘Nordic Pulse’ concert tour has also performed in Palanga, Riga and Helsinki. The Helsinki concert supported the important environmental work of John Nurminen Foundation. For every ticket sold, one Euro was donated to the foundation projects that protect the Baltic Sea. The last concert will be held in St. Petersburg on 21 March. They will also perform at the 20th annual international Baltic Sea Forum that highlights various ways of protecting the marine environment of the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic website states that this is a new paradigm for making music in the 21st century. Their concerts offer a unique show of sound, light and projection art as well as choreography; their passion to perform music that is written for orchestras without the help of sheet music, changes the musical experience for the performers as well as the audience; under guidance of musical director Kristjan Järvi and his almost electrifying conductor’s baton, their concerts convey remarkably contagious passion and energy. We can certainly say that their aims are fulfilled effortlessly and with visible enjoyment.
Particularly moving journey
They performed Pēteris Vasks’ song ‘Vientuļais eņģelis’ / ‘Lonely Angel’, I and II part of Gediminas Gelgotas’ violin concerto and Kristjan Järvi’s own song ‘Aurora’. The programme booklet had colourful introductions to these stories. In Vasks’ song, ‘the violin solo moves in the background of the string instruments and reaches spiritual heights while symbolising the composer’s deep religious convictions’. At the beginning of Gelgotas violin concerto, ‘the darker sections interchange with lyrical episodes that progress into a solo cadence. … The peak for the second part comes with the violin solo that is followed by orchestral themes, similar to a chorale, and that give the work with a harmonious end.’ These introductions were easy to recognize when listening to the concert. Violinist David Nebel performed seemingly effortless and truly skilful solos. He was drawing energy from the conductor, with whom he cheerfully communicated, and from the orchestra, he was playing for.
According to the Baltic Sea Philharmonic website, ‘Aurora’ was inspired by the magical northern lights and the concept of rebirth and new light. Kristjan Järvi himself has said the following: ‘Aurora is a story about the northern lights, but also about spring, which is a period of creation and rebirth.’ The booklet added that ‘the atmospheric composition uses only a few main motifs that constantly transform and that contain the natural beauty of the Nordic nature.’ The song is minimalistic and yet its natural growth and journey hold something particularly moving.
The first half of the concert was enriched by Mick Pedaja song arrangements for the orchestra. This cooperation justifies itself. You can hear and feel their connection and efforts to define nature. It is enjoyable to observe the natural energy that they create on stage. The first half of the concert culminated in a powerful and chilling performance of Mick Pedaja’s work ‘To the Light’ (‘Valgeks’).
At the second half of the concert, they performed Kristjan Järvi’s suite of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘Sleeping Beauty’. According to the booklet, Kristjan’s ‘new arrangement is based on ballet excerpts and popular concert suites that create a dramatically cohesive work’. The suite was performed standing up and without sheet music. The conductor explained that with this approach, he hopes to get people to see and believe that they are capable of anything if they so desire. At the same time, this approach enabled the musicians to fully engage with the song. During the suite, various instruments performed solos and the musicians were even more immersed in the song as they were performing it standing up and without sheet music.
What was my experience?
The emotions were wonderful! As an audience member and classical music enthusiast, I had a true concert experience that I haven’t had in a very long time. The songs were very expressive, you could hear and feel a wide range of emotions. The sadness, sorrow, despair and tensions were intertwined with bright light, hope and genuine joy. I was especially touched by Kristjan Järvi’s own song ‘Aurora’. Unfortunately, I have not found a recording of the song, but I have the unforgettable memory of what I experienced at the concert. The lightness of the song and notes reached every cell of my body and the flow of sounds left me happy in tears! The charismatic Kristjan Järvi passionately roots for his orchestra and effortlessly moves with the music. The joy of what he does was so contagious for me, for the orchestra and for the entire concert hall. The audience even cheered in between and at the end of the songs, and the concert ended with a standing ovation for the orchestra and its remarkable conductor. To observe each member of the orchestra was an experience in itself. Some caught my eye more than others. For example, the first violinist was so expressive that from the beginning you could imagine that she could just as well be a dancer. The second half of the concert confirmed that thought. She danced with every note and wave of music that travelled through the orchestra and got inspired by every move of the conductor.
How was the concert experience for some other audience members?
Visitor 1. All in all, I really liked the concert: the programme was varied and brought the joy of recognition, tension, dreaming, thrill and much more.
The first half was very-very good in its concept, but the technical performance diminished the wow-effect.
The second half of the concert was more lively and the musicians were able to embody the music they performed. It was really cool to see how getting rid of sheet music will free the performers and force them to notice one another, communicate and express the entire concept.
I thought it was an excellent idea to have an hour of autographs after the concert. It was the first time I’ve seen this at a classic concert house.
Visitor 2. For me, the concert was definitely an experience. I liked the vitality of young musicians. Especially the cooperation between the vocals and the powerful instruments. Of course, giving a standing performance of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ without sheet music was remarkable. And you cannot escape the expressive conductor Kristjan Järvi, whose charisma will have an effect on anyone. By the end of the concert, I had to admit that there is nothing like the organism of the symphony orchestra.
Visitor 3. When an orchestra performs something that they have memorised, the energy is completely different from when playing from the sheets. Actually, there is no need to compare the two, both are unique in their own way. It is inspiring to see and hear two different sides during one concert.
It certainly was an experience that I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone, who is interested in classical music or would like to discover it.