Oslo Philharmonic's first tours in 2019 will go to Spain and the United Kingdom. (Photo: CF Wesenberg)

Season Opening

This concert was played:

  1. Two Symphonic Poems: 1. Forest Morning; 2. A Walk into the Future (Commission)
  2. Symfoni nr. 5
  1. Vasily Petrenko conductor

Music by Torvund and Tchaikovsky, conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

The concert opens with Øyvind Torvund's (b. 1976) Two symphonic poems, commissioned by the Oslo Philharmonic for the 100th anniversary. Torvund is one of his generation's most renowned composers, and has produced a large and distinctive body of work.

In addition to music studies in Oslo and Berlin, Torvund has played guitar in rock and improv bands, and he uses diverse and contradictory elements in his music: sounds from rock or everyday life appear in chamber music, improvisation is combined with detailed composition and serious counterpoint seasoned with humor.

In the new work, Torvund explores his interest in nature and romance and what he calls "modernism in nature". "Calling these pieces symphonic poems is a way of making use of the tradition," says Øyvind Torvund. "There's something nice about the music starting in a concrete situation, a narrative that can evolve in several directions."

The first poem is called "Forest Morning" − basically an idyllic scene where the forest wakes to birdsong and other forest sounds. Eventually, the forest scene expands to include the outside world and the sounds of traffic and noise. The composer describes the poem as "a slow transformation where chords, melodies and noise live together."

Torvund wants to create an organic sound world in the poem, but without using authentic sounds from nature. The bird song, for example, is created alternately by strings, electronics and a so-called bird call. He also likes to combine musical elements that "work against each other", such as "cheap, plastic-like synth sounds and the most exquisite string sound."

The second poem, "A Walk Into the Future", begins with what the composer calls "a simple, childish idea": a drum march with whistled melody − someone is going hiking! Along the way, hikers encounter abstract shapes, robots and much foreign and unknown − in modernist music. The vision for the future we are presented with is not entirely bright and cheerful − although the hikers' attitude is positive.

Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony has always had a special resonance in the orchestra. The work was performed during its very first season, and has proved remarkably popular among musicians, conductors and audiences in Oslo since the 1920’s. Half a century later, Tchaikovsky’s symphonies were in focus when the Oslo Philharmonic first achieved international recognition. Recordings of the fourth, fifth and sixth symphonies with Mariss Jansons in the 1980’s won numerous awards, granting the orchestra a new presence on the international music scene.

The theme of the clarinet, in a dark minor key, accompanied by deeply solemn strings, heralds a tragic fate in the opening of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) fifth symphony. Constructed in the same fashion as Beethoven’s fifth symphony, the theme goes from battle to triumph, from darkness to light, in the course of the symphony. The drama remains even after the triumph is seemingly achieved in the beginning of the finale, and the theme is no longer in a minor key, but in a radiant major key. Threatening fate is defeated in the end, and the symphony ends in triumph. When the work was completed in 1888, Tchaikovsky’s might have realised that fate was not so merciful, something which was to colour his heartrending sixth symphony a few years later. Tchaikovsky concealed his sexuality throughout his life, and died an unhappy man in 1893. The cause of death was cholera, but many have speculated on whether his early death was by his own hand.

Although his fifth symphony has a dramatic form and a clearly drawn plot, features most remember the most clearly are its beautiful melodies, rich orchestra sound and many expressive highlights. Who could forget the master of ballet’s beautiful waltz in the third movement, the elegant horn solo and the rich orchestra palate in the famous second movement — not to speak of the expressive musical waves sweeping through the entire work?

The fifth symphony was in no way an immediate success. Critics were sceptical after its world premiere in St. Petersburg in 1888 and Tchaikovsky even described the work as a fiasco after having conducted it in Prague. Since then, however, it has assumed a clear position in the international standard concert repertoire and remains one of our time’s most often performed and best-known Russian symphonies — irrespective of composer and era.

(Text: Fred-Olav Vatne (Torvund); Thomas Erma Møller (Tsjaikovskij); Photo: CF Wesenberg)

Tickets

  • Adult: 120 - 490 NOK
  • Senior: 120 - 395 NOK
  • Student: 120 - 245 NOK
  • Child: 120 NOK

The concert is included in the following subscriptions: