Abu Dhabi, UAE: There are not many regions in the world that have produced as many classical musicians, composers and conductors as Scandinavia and last night, Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the Finland’s internationally acclaimed conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste presented a number of Masterworks of Romantic Music.
The orchestra, mostly made-up of college-age men and young blond women dressed in bright colorful dresses as an ironic symbol of the vibrant Scandinavian landscapes, performed a two hour programme which delighted an enthusiastic public. Abu Dhabi Classics indeed brought the audience of the Emirates Palace Auditorium a unique performance of the best classical music from Northern Europe. In only the seventh concert of the Classics season, Abu Dhabi is constantly reaffirming its unmatched ability to be the cultural capital in the region.
As Europe’s largest and one of its most prestigious music schools, Sibelius Academy’s gripping performance was evident from the first chord. In their first performance in the UAE, the Helsinki music school dating back to 1882 opened the night with Edvard Grieg’s most popular work Peer Gynt, Suite No 1 and its famous melody Morning Mood. While the composition has become one of the most recognized classical tunes due to its popularity among film makers, it is unreadily known that it accompanies a drama sent in the Middle East. This wonderful and evocative music composed in 1876, describes the journey from Norway to Arabia of a young adventurer Peer Gynt.
It was in 1865 that Grieg, foremost Norwegian composer only in his early 20s, met Norway’s best writer, Henrik Ibsen who was working on a verse drama named Peer Gynt. Nine years later the composer decided to compose a music for that drama giving birth to the world famous melodies of “Peer Gynt”.
The second act of the night was Scandinavia’s most sought-after violinist, Norwegian Henning Kraggerud performing Jean Sibelius Six Humoresques for Violin and Orchestra. With his precious instrument, the 1744 Guarneri del Gesu violin, Kraggerud provided technical sovereignty, a deep and unique sound in a moving dialogue with the orchestra, a moment of true romanticism. In his early thirties, Henning Kraggerud performs with most of the leading orchestras of Europe and North America and delights all audiences with his personal and sensible taste
The true test of the Academy and Saraste’s incredible talent was left to the final act of none other than Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in D Minor. The history of that symphony is closely linked to the composer’s personal life.
The symphony evokes the nature of this tormented genius, always oscillating between extremes of melancholy and frenzied activity, between resignation and optimism. The result is a piece of great beauty and intensity. Born in Russia during the romantic era in 1840, Tchaikovsky compositions represent in an obsessive way the fate “that ominous power which hinders our striving after happiness”.
But this unforgettable night would not have been the same without the masterful conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Saraste was able to pull together the orchestra to deliver classical music’s most challenging Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4. A product of the Sibelius Academy himself, Saraste was initially trained as a violinist, which explains his choice in the romantic violin program.
In his trademark silver grey hair and his salt-and-pepper beard, Saraste’s elegance and power makes him one of the most exceptional conductors of his generation.
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