Saturday, 16 January 2016

A Dream came true: Unborn premiered!

Saturday the 16th of January 2016. This week was the premiere of my orchestra piece Unborn, and it was absolutely wonderful!

I went by train to Jyväskylä already on Monday 11 January in the afternoon, and to my surprise quite many trains were fully booked, but I managed to get there before the snow storm broke out. (It wasn’t such a bad storm, but for some reason the trains in Finland stop working when there is a slight increase of snow… Which happens every year!) 

Jyväskylä town orchestra aka Jyväskylä Sinfonia had booked a room for me at the four star hotel Yöpuu. In the hotel every room is different and I had a really pretty room with beautiful wood furniture from the 19th century. For breakfast I had a hard time choosing what to eat, so I ate basically everything for not missing out on anything. It was really nice being in such a nice hotel, the only downside was that I felt like I was going bankrupt every time I ate something (a Sandwich, lunch or even a cup of tea!) that wasn’t included and paid for by myself. 

Dinner at Hotel Yöpuu in Jyäskylä 11.1.2016

Being a composer is so paradoxical. Without composers there wouldn’t exist any music to be played, but still it seems like composers are the ones who earn the least all of their life, even if they some day may get famous… I guess that is why so many composers try to be conductors as well, for surviving. And some also very successfully do both, like Gustav Mahler or Esa-Pekka Salonen. But there seems to be about one of them in every century.

The first rehearsal that I came to listen to (which actually was the third rehearsal for the orchestra) on Tuesday morning on the 12th of January was already a really good rehearsal and my piece sounded almost as I wanted it to sound. The conductor Ville Matvejeff had done a great job with my piece during the first two rehearsals. With only a few comments like “at rehearsal marks E and I the emotion should be more “hysterically energetic” and the woodwinds should maybe play fortissimo instead of forte” everything fell at once much better into place. I also had to ask all my glissandi to be played more slowly. But I have to say I was so relieved when I heard how well the first clarinet Gocho Prakov played his solo and all glissandi, because most people commented on my score when they saw the clarinet part “Are you sure this can be played?” and I said “Well, Martin Fröst played a Sörensen concerto with almost only glissandi in both directions” on which everyone responded “Yes but Fröst is Fröst…!”. So I was really happy that Prakov didn’t seem to have any difficulties either. After the orchestra had rehearsed my piece I told them the underlying story to the piece, and the whole orchestra said in one sad voice “aaaw“ (like the audience of the tv-show Friends). After my rehearsal I stayed and listened to the rest of the rehearsal, Sibelius Violin Concerto played by Petteri Iivonen and Brahms Third Symphony, while following the scores from my laptop (gotta love IMSLP!).

Ville Matvejeff conducting my piece Unborn, while I follow in my score.
Photo by @jklsinfonia 12.1.2016

Ville Matvejeff conducting the rehearsal of Jyväskylä Sinfonia, January 2016. 

After the rehearsal I had lunch with Matvejeff and Iivonen at the hotel restaurant and the rest of the afternoon and evening I spent composing my Melodrama which should be ready as soon as possible, and after that I went early to bed.

Wednesday the 13th of January, the day of the concert it was about ten degrees below zero (Centigrades) and quite a snow storm. The final rehearsal took place at the concert venue, which actually isn’t a concert venue at all but the main stage of the town theatre. Jyväskylä Sinfonia is one of the few town orchestras (along side with Lappeenranta town orchestra) that doesn’t have an “own” venue. The main hall of the town theatre only fits about 550 people, which means that the concerts of Jyväskylä Sinfonia are always sold out. This despite that the acoustics in the venue are terribly bad for classical concerts.

Final rehearsal of Unborn 13.1.2016. Ville Matvejeff conducting Jyväskylä Sinfonia.

 Jyväskylä is quite far away from other cities, it’s about a four-hour train ride from Helsinki. So this was the reason that my boyfriend was the only close person and family-member who came to listen to my premiere.

When I arrived at the concert venue I was happy to see one familiar face, the music critic Wilhelm Kvist from the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. He had come by train all the way from Helsinki for listening to this concert, which was very flattering!

My boyfriend and I had places on the third row at the end of the row, so that it was easy for me to go on stage and bow after the piece. I was very nervous during the premiere, but it went really well and I was so happy! I went up on stage and bowed once, the audience applauded politely long enough for me to bow and walk off stage.

My piece was followed by Sibelius Violin Concerto, which obviously was more in the taste of the audience, and Iivonen got to play two encores. In the break my boyfriend asked me “How do you feel now after the premiere??” and I honestly answered “…well, it feels a bit weird that I just had enough time to walk off stage before the applause ended…” and Janne answered “…well… you are a contemporary composer, you have to get used to it, that you aren’t as popular as Sibelius…” And I said “yeah, I guess my music has mainly been played at “contemporary concerts” and “contemporary festvals” where the audience likes contemporary music and even clap the composer back on stage, so I have just been living in my own little bubble”. With this said, it felt SO good when a random lady whom I walked by stopped me and told me that she really liked my piece, and her friends all agreed with her. While I was having a cup of tea a man was talking with his teen-age daughters and they were giggling and looking embarrassed and tried to stop the man, who also came up to me and thanked me for the piece. Maybe the daughters thought it was embarrassing to talk to a stranger? Maybe people think we composers “hear it all the time” that we compose well, that our music is good. But NO, WE DON’T! Too seldom people dare to come and give compliments to other people (at least in Finland), so dear readers; we composers for sure do need your encouragement! Because we are composing for YOU! I remember every one of the five people who came up to me after the concert and thanked me, every one of them warmed my heart and gave me one more reason to keep on composing.

After a nice second half with Brahms and a very short photo shoot, Iivonen, Mavejeff, Janne and I had a nice dinner at Restaurant Figaro. Even though Mavejeff has a career that is completely unbelievable for a conductor under the age of thirty, he is still a very humble and extremely nice person, so I’m not surprised that many like to work with him. Matvejeff was going to conduct an opera rehearsal the next morning in Turku, so he excused himself and didn’t join us for a drink at the bar but instead left, as he still had a 300-kilometre drive left to Turku in the snowstorm.

Petteri Iivonen, me and Ville Matvejeff after the concert in Jyväskylä 13.1.2016.
Photo by @jklsinfonia

I on the other hand had a good night’s sleep, went by train to Tampere, had lunch there and taught my pedagogical student, and then took a train back to Helsinki. (It was so much nicer to split up the four-hour train ride from Jyväskylä to Helsinki in two parts!) It feels funny that everything is already over, the premiere, it’s all over. Most of all I feel thankful and relieved everything went so well; that my scores were clear and the musicians were happy, the premiere went well, and I will have a review in Hufvudstadsbladet! What more could I wish for?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Autumn 2015

January 5th 2016. After a hectic spring and summer 2016 I have tried to do some downshifting and this laid back autumn has been exactly what I needed! 

So what have I been up to? I decided to take a gap-year from Malmö Academy of Music, because I couldn’t cope anymore with studying two degrees in two countries (a bachelor of piano in Finland and Masters in composition in Sweden). So this autumn I have pursued  my piano pedagogue degree in Tampere University of Applied Sciences while living in Helsinki at my parents place (for saving on living costs) and working on my freelance composition work. This autumn I have been working on my orchestra piece Unborn (2012-2015) that will be premiered by Jyväskylä Sinfonia on the 13th of January 2016 and also composing a melodrama commissioned by John Storgårds for the festival Sång och musikfesten 2016 to be premiered on the 11th of June 2016 in Kokkola. 

In the beginning of the autumn I also produced one concert for the festival Ung Nordisk Musik together with my friend and composer Dante Thelestam. And in November I was 12 days in Malmö for taking part of and helping to organise the contemporary music festival “Connect 2015 - The Apocalypse” organised by the composition department of Malmö Academy of Music. So I have been more or less in one place the whole autumn, which has been a really nice and welcome change. More over I have begun to sleep about 8h per night, which has correlated with feeling better and being a bit less ill, but also is a part reason to less blog posts.

Hoping to write more about all the events in separate blog posts, so once again being positive (or maybe just unrealistic?) about being back soon with my next post!