Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 1996 - Impressions of the First Week

Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 1996 -
Impressions of the First Week

I was happy to win one week ticket for Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in the lottery organized by the Kuhmo Chamber Music Appreciation Society. Kuhmo - "In the middle of nowhere" The festival is held "in the middle of nowhere": Kuhmo lies 600 kilometers (almost 400 miles) north of Helsinki, close to the eastern border of Finland. The 1996 festival was the 27th gathering of the chamber music enthusiasts. In 1970 Seppo Kimanen was looking for a place for a festival and a music course. Kuhmo was well suited because of its distant location and the wild nature with vast forests and the crystal-clear lakes. After the modest start the festival has been discovered by international media, first-rate artists and distinguished composers. For instance, on Sunday, 21st of July, a concert was dedicated to the memory of the great violinist Oleg Kagan who was a frequent visitor in Kuhmo. Natalia Gutman was among the fine artists who played "In memoriam" works by Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Katia Tchemberdji, and Tigran Mansurian.

The Spirit of Kuhmo In the following, I quote the festival leaflet. The phrases are not "just marketing" - they are real at least as experienced by myself during the five personal visits.

  • "The Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival is highly democratic. Not even the brightest megastar gets an easier deal. He spends the mornings teaching, the afternoons and evenings in concert, and the nights practising."
  • "The artists usually come for the duration, spending the entire two weeks living in humble accommodation (the local school hostels), teaching and practising in the classrooms, giving concerts in the school gym, and freshening up at the sauna evenings laid on by local families. Gone is all the external glitter and glamour."
  • "Dressing up and 'being seen' are completely alien to Kuhmo. Audiences and musicians alike share a love of music, T-shirts and 'rönttönen' pies." Concerts The ticket permitted me to go to almost all concerts in the first week between 14th and 21st of July. This year the chamber music by Haydn and Mozart was in a central position. I'll describe now briefly some of the experiences I had during the week. I am not going to give full details. I'll rather concentrate on the impressions and the anecdotal remarks based on my personal likings. All the visited concerts are listed to serve as a personal diary and to give a general idea of the contents.

Sun, 14.7. 19.00

Olli Mustonen (1967-): Nonet. Virtuosi di Kuhmo. Mustonen has been criticized for composing "too traditional" music. I do not agree: his music may very well stem from the tradition but it is clever and stimulating. Mustonen's virtuosity as a pianist can also be heard in his compositions. W.A. Mozart (1756-1791): Piano Concerto in A, KV 488. Olli Mustonen (pianist and conductor), Virtuosi di Kuhmo. Mustonen's emotionally strong style was a positive experience.

Mon, 15.7. 11.00 Mozart, music for two fortepianos.

Mon, 15.7. 15.00 Chopin, Serocki, Szymanovski, Paderewski. Ewa Kupiec, piano.

Mon, 15.7. 16.30 Meet the Artist: Silesian Quartet. A talented Polish quartet that played, e.g., music by contemporary Polish composers during the festival. From Monday to Friday there were five short occassions named 'meet the artist' where Tuulikki Karjalainen interviewed some interesting artists. Each occassion started with a small concert. The members recommended Henryk Gorecki's 3rd Symphony.

Mon, 15.7. 18.15 Haydn: String Quartets, op. 201-204. Lindsay Quartet. Fine music and very fine musicians but sorry: I haven't ever learned to love Haydn's music. :-(

Tue, 16.7. 11.00 Mozart.

Tue, 16.7. 15.00 Mina Miller played and told about Nielsen's music for piano. She had made her PhD dissertation on this subject.

Tue, 16.7. 16.30 Meet the Artist: Hagai Shaham, Raija Kerppo. Anecdotal remark: Kerppo (a winner of Maj Lind Piano Competition, 1986) told about the musical habits of her and her husband's (Olli Mustonen) dogs.

Tue, 16.7. 21.00 Brahms, Webern, Dvorak.

Wed, 17.7. 15.00 Penderecki, Babewicz, Zarebski. Silecian Quartet, Poblocka.

Wed, 17.7. 16.30 Meet the Artist: Diaz Trio. Roberto Diaz and David Kim were present in the beginning and it was explained that the third member of the trio, namely Andres Diaz, has missed the aeroplane. Just fifteen minutes before the end of the occassion Andres appeared but stayed in the audience. From the audience it was asked what does Shostakovich mean to Roberto Diaz while he had such an impressive performance of Dmitry's viola sonata last year. Roberto Diaz gave a long answer explaining how he had met the professor in Moscow to whom the work was dedicated to, and how they visited Shostakovich' grave. Roberto Diaz said that he considers the viola sonata to be "one of the greatest pieces ever written for any instrument". Stravinsky, Tiensuu, Corelli, Almila, Zolotarjov, Piazzolla, Deep Purple. Trio Fratres. The trio consists of three accordionists (Raimo Vertainen, Heikki Jokiaho, Toni Hämäläinen) who played in an interestingly many-sided concert beginning from Stravinsky ending up to Deep Purple where one played electric guitar instead of accordion. As extra piece they played Sting's Englishman in New York (same as "turkulainen Helsingissä" or an accordion player in chamber music festival -- as they said :-).

Thu, 18.7. 15.00 Mina Miller continued to play and tell about Nielsen's piano music. Vertavo String Quartet played Nielsen's quartet in f minor, op. 5.

Thu, 18.7. 16.30 Meet the Artist: Vellinger Quartet.

Thu, 18.7. 22.00 Strauss, Berg, Korngold. Lieder. Olaf Bä (baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano).

Thu, 18.7. 23.30 Not a concert: a soccer match between the artists and the organisers. The artists won 4-2 (if I remember correctly). In the audience I met some Swiss people who were attending the courses and happened to live just nearby to my elder brother (who 'wohnt in der Schweitz'). Notice the time of the match: it was played by the midnight outside without any extra light. You couldn't do that in London, Paris, or New York!

Fri, 19.7. 13.00 Perukkakonsertti Jauhovaaran kämpällä keskellä metsäistä vaaramaisemaa noin 40 Kuhmon keskustasta. An inspiring concert by Vasile Pantir (violin) and Arto Tarkkonen (accordion). Gipsy, slavic, hebrew etc. themes.

Fri, 19.7. 16.30 Meet the Artist: Mina Miller. Miller had written her dissertation on Nielsen's piano music. Therefore she has also been interested in Nielsen's contemporaries, and played some Janacek. Miller's background was very interesting. She told, among other things, that she had started her piano studied at the age of 16 as her mother - as a concert pianist - was reluctant to let her to begin.

Sat, 20.7. 15.00 Music for tuba and piano was played by Jens Bjorn-Larsen (tuba) and Martin Akerwall (piano).

Sat, 20.7. 20.30 The famous 'Chamber Music Fever'. In this concert most of the festival artists traditionally perform. This time the concert lasted to about 2 a.m. Usually also humorous parts are included. This year there was only one clearly comedic performance by the Finnish clarinetist Kari Kriikku. The piece was a total surprise while Kriikku is a serious artist having studied, e.g., in England and U.S. He is also the artistic director of the annual Crusell Week in Uusikaupunki (western coast of Finland). I'll explain the joke in Finnish (for my own convenience and to be able to keep the nuances).
Kriikku alkoi esityksensä soittamalla ihan normaalisti klarinettiteoksen Lagerspetzin säestyksellä. Toisen kappaleen Kriikku aloitti avaamalla yllättäen suunsa. Ensimmäisestä hämmästyksestä toivuttua oli ilmeistä, että hän matki M.A. Nummista. Puhelaulun sanat meniv{t suurinpiirtein tähän tapaan: "Klarinetin puhdistuksessa ompi tärkeätä...". Samalla Kriikku veti puhaltimensa lävitse keppiä ja kangasta.
The 'Chamber Music Fever' must be experienced! - thus I won't try to explain it more. This fine evening was ended by Vyacheslav Novikov who played jazz. Novikov is very talented artist who was born in Ukraine but lives nowadays in Finland. He has been, e.g., a permanent soloist in Kiev Philharmonic.

Sun, 21.7. 12.00 Something special for the younger audience.
Olivier Messiaen: Le merle noir. Petri Alanko (flute), Juhani Lagerspetz (piano).
Darius Milhaud: Scaramouche. Konstantin Bogino (piano), Junio Kimanen (piano).
Camille Saint-Saens: The Carnival of the Animals. A collection of festival artists (Jean-Francois Heisser and Juhani Lagerspetz as pianists).
Concluding remark Kuhmo spirit is something to be experienced.

Timo Honkela, updated Feb 17, 1998