January 17, 2021 in the Estonia Concert Hall
Conductor: Arvo Volmer
Soloists: Yena Choi (soprano, Korea), Mehis Tiits (tenor), Aare Saal (baritone)
Chorus Masters: Elmo Tiisvald, Heli Jürgenson, Hirvo Surva, Maret Alango, Mariliis Kreintaal
Estonian National Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Boys’ Choir, Mixed Choir of Estonia Society
Jean Sibelius stressed several times that for him “music begins where the words end – there is only absolute music without a wish to describe or portray anything”. Despite that, his First symphony displays his exceptional talent for telling musical stories.
On February 15, 1899, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II issued the “February Manifesto”, aimed to restrict the autonomy of the Grand Duchy of Finland similarly to Estonia. A little after the signing of the manifesto, Sibelius finished his “Finlandia” that sums up the feelings of Finnish people most precisely in that politically explosive spring. The summer of the same year saw the completion of the First Symphony in E minor, Op. 39. Sibelius was not a political man, but he was a fierce Finnish patriot whose works were often carried national romanticism and spiritual freedom aimed outside political restrictions. Both “Finlandia” and the First Symphony were as significant to the Finnish people as Verdi’s “Va, pensiero” to Italians at the premiere of his “Nabucco”. In his First Symphony, Sibelius began in the late Romantic tradition, but gave timeworn musical gestures a new orchestral sound and a virile Nordic intensity all his own.
During the tour in the summer of 1900, the first symphony became the work with which Sibelius achieved his international breakthrough. The symphony has written itself into the history of the 20th century film music: the main theme of the first movement was used by Nino Rota as the basis for “The Godfather Waltz”, his main theme to the film “”The Godfather”.
“Carmina Burana” is a grand and ardent scenic cantata praising life and sun. Created in 1936 for chorus, soloists and orchestra, it was based on 24 poems from the medieval collection “Carmina Burana” found in the Benediktbeuern Abbey in the Bavarian Alps. The poems are thought to be written by a group of clergy and their students retelling about love, nature and wine. Orff’s powerful music binds the medieval and contemporary, praising the vitality of human nature. The magnificent cantata is performed by Estonian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra and the Mixed Choir of the Estonia Society to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the composer.