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We are excited to be closing out this year, and this decade, with our Hungarian debut on
19 November in Budapest, one of the great European cities for music lovers. Joining the orchestra and Kristjan for our ‘Midnight Sun’ concert at Müpa Budapest will be Budapest-born pianist József Balog (pictured above). He’ll be performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto, which will be imaginatively intertwined with another celebrated Grieg work, the Suite No. 1 from Peer Gynt. The concert will climax with Stravinsky’s 1945 orchestral version of his great ballet The Firebird. This was the first major work that the Baltic Sea Philharmonic performed completely from memory – a world premiere in 2017 in Visby on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland – and it started the orchestra on the journey to playing whole programmes by heart. Our ‘Midnight Sun’ concert in Budapest will be performed entirely from memory, with the musicians free to stand, move and interact dynamically with each other and with Kristjan.

We’re delighted to be collaborating with József for the first time. Born in 1979, he’s one of the most talented pianists of his generation. In the last 20 years he has given more than 1,000 concerts as a soloist and chamber musician in more than 25 countries across Europe, North America and Asia. Growing up surrounded by the amazing heritage of the renowned Hungarian piano tradition established by Liszt, Dohnányi and Bartók, József graduated from the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest, where he studied with Jenő Jandó. Among the orchestras he’s already worked with are the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, the Ukrainian National Philharmonic and the Jerusalem Chamber Orchestra.



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On the day before the ‘Midnight Sun’ concert at the Philharmonie, the Baltic Sea Music Education Foundation organised a Talent Day in Berlin, when around 30 young musicians came to audition for the chance to join the orchestra on future tours. A panel of principals from the Baltic Sea Philharmonic listened to the applicants play solo in the morning, and then selected 20 to sit in and play during a full orchestra rehearsal in the afternoon – a fantastic opportunity for these players to experience the special chemistry and communication that comes with playing from memory.

On the ‘Midnight Sun’ tour itself, we welcomed several first-time members of the orchestra who had successfully auditioned at the Talent Days we held during our ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour of the Baltic States, Finland and Russia in March. Russian violinist Zhanna Troitskaya said that the warm atmosphere at her audition in St. Petersburg encouraged ‘improvisation and the freedom to create music without fear or shame’. Being part of ‘Midnight Sun’, she added, was ‘the best experience of my musical life’, and ‘playing by heart opened up to me a new way of performing orchestral music’. Her fellow new violinist Jokūbas Švambaris, from Lithuania, said he had embraced the challenges of the Talent Day in Palanga: ‘The solo audition was calm, whereas the joint rehearsal was one of the craziest things I’ve done in an orchestra: I had never played the programme before, and Kristjan asked the musicians to play standing and so I just joined in. That was an amazing experience, and really motivated me to become a member of this orchestra.’

Check out our Facebook page for photos from the Berlin Talent Day


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Our ‘Midnight Sun’ soloists Mari Samuelsen and Mick and Angeelia Pedaja were the perfect collaborators, completely engaged in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic vision of an organic, free-flowing concert concept, and contributing so much to the special atmosphere of each performance. A champion of contemporary composers and an instinctive interpreter of modern and minimalist styles, Mari was in her element in her four solo features (Richter’s Dona Nobis Pacem 2 and Vasks’s Lonely Angel both appear on her new double album that was released by Deutsche Grammophon in June). Elias Pietsch in the Tagespiegel praised her ‘crystalline’ playing in the Vasks, a performance which was ‘at the same time fragile and powerful’. He found her interpretation of Richter’s piece, which he wrote for the poignant and mystical HBO drama series The Leftovers, ‘both forceful and deeply sad’.

The singing of Mick and Angeelia Pedaja added a vibrant new dimension to the orchestral sound, and their songs also played a big part in balancing the energy and flow of the whole performance. As Pietsch observed, ‘The evening is also beautifully varied thanks to the songs of the Estonian singer-songwriter Mick Pedaja, which are repeatedly interspersed. His calm songs, floating between ambient and folk, fit well with the classical works, and the orchestral arrangements avoid the kitsch of many classical/pop combinations through discreet electronics.’ In the context of the modern and contemporary Estonian works on the programme – Pärt’s Fratres and Kristjan’s Aurora – Mick’s songs, rooted as they are in nature and landscape, sound both fresh and timeless.


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We’re delighted that our performances in Berlin and Hamburg made such a deep and positive impression on the music critics. The imaginative presentation of ‘Midnight Sun’ grabbed reviewers’ attention from the very beginning, when violinists from the orchestra emerged from around the auditorium, sustaining a single unison tone as they slowly converged on the stage. Matthias Nöther for the Berlin Morgenpost wrote, ‘It is rare in such a symphony concert that nobody can tell what is happening in those first moments, and that’s refreshing.’ Bachtrack reviewer Stefan Pillhofer said that this unique opening set the tone for a performance that was both festive and mystical, and he also noted the extra-musical dimensions to the presentation: ‘The musicians were dressed in orange and blue tones, symbolising the different brightness levels of a low midnight sun. And the hall lighting was also used to support different moods and sometimes even imitate rhythms.’

In Kristjan’s Aurora, the illuminations echoed the dancing lights of the aurora borealis, and Nöther wrote that Kristjan as conductor ‘moved almost like a pop star under these coloured lights’. In the Tagespiegel Elias Pietsch likened the maestro to ‘a goblin, jumping across the stage and whipping up more and more energy from his protégés. Cue a wildly successful interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Firebird, with the orchestra igniting a veritable musical storm.’ The same reviewer praised the musicians’ joy of playing, saying that ‘This joy probably has a lot to do with playing by heart: due to the absence of music stands there is movement on stage, the musicians interact with each other, they look at each other a lot – the interplay is so alive.’

Joachim Mischke from the Hamburger Abendblatt was another reviewer wowed by the orchestra’s dynamic memorised performance and especially the musicians’ interpretation of The Firebird: ‘Keeping Stravinsky’s high-octane score from crashing under its own weight is no easy feat for an orchestra, let alone one with the scores in front of the players’ noses. But by heart, like the rest of the almost two-hour, uninterrupted programme? As a kind of story ballet, in which groups of instruments or individuals wander across the stage, in which they dance in rhythm and the concertmaster takes off her pumps in the midst of all this excess energy? This is clearly a different league.’


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As a searing June heatwave made Europe swelter in Saharan air, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic came with the perfect antidote: cool Nordic vibes and music to transport audiences to the lands above the Arctic Circle where the sun never sets in the summer months.

The opening concert of our ‘Midnight Sun’ tour, at the Philharmonie in Berlin on 26 June, took place on the city’s hottest day of the year so far (a roasting 38°C!). But the heat was already building a week earlier, as the orchestra came together at its rehearsal base in Vlotho, North-Rhine Westphalia. Kristjan, together with strings and memorisation coach Jan Bjøranger, guided and inspired the musicians over six days, and on 23 June the orchestra had a public dress rehearsal in front of 300 of the town’s music lovers. One local fan enthused afterwards on Instagram: ‘The music was streaming and gleaming throughout the weekend, and to listen to the whole concert made it complete… still humming in my brain.’

The Berlin premiere of ‘Midnight Sun’ was the first chance to showcase the latest evolution of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s unique approach to concert performance, and we were excited to see how the audience would react. We had already performed a whole programme from memory, on the ‘Waterworks’ tour of the United Arab Emirates in November 2018, but for ‘Midnight Sun’ we were also playing the entire 110-minute programme with no breaks – just discreet transitions between pieces, some of which were even improvised by the orchestra.

Pēteris Vasks’s meditative violin concerto Lonely Angel, a delicate vehicle for Norwegian soloist Mari Samuelsen, flowed into the first movement of Rautavaara’s visionary Cantus Arcticus, which opened with the recorded sounds of Arctic birdsong. Emerging out of the Rautavaara came the first of four specially orchestrated songs featuring Estonian singer-songwriters Mick and Angeelia Pedaja. Mari returned to the stage, in between the second and third movements of Cantus Arcticus, for Max Richter’s Dona Nobis Pacem 2, and then for Arvo Pärt’s Fratres and finally Kristjan’s luminous Aurora, a piece inspired by the Northern Lights. The unbroken stream of music climaxed with Stravinsky’s ballet masterpiece The Firebird. Add in atmospheric lighting design, sensitively coloured concert clothing, and the freedom for players to move, interact and even dance on a stage with no music stands, and ‘Midnight Sun’ really was a fusion of everything that makes the Baltic Sea Philharmonic a revolutionary ensemble.

So what did Berliners make of the performance? Cheers and standing ovations told their own story, and deserved a special encore. Violinist Saimi Kortelainen led the orchestra in a rousing folk song from her native Estonia, and the musicians were still singing as they left the stage. ‘Truly heart-opening,’ as one concert goer summarised it.

The reaction was the same from the 2,100-strong audience in a sold-out Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg on 2 July – a thrilling second visit for us to this spectacular venue. In between the two German concerts we travelled to the beautiful lakeside town of Ossiach in southern Austria to perform at the Carinthian Music Academy in celebration of its tenth anniversary. Our performance in the Academy’s ultra-modern Alban Berg Concert Hall was also broadcast to viewers in the courtyard outside. By the tour’s end, we had played to more than 4,400 people and covered 2,780 km by road and air. ‘Midnight Sun’ was another unforgettable adventure for the musicians of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic.

See our Facebook page and Instagram feed for photos and videos from the ‘Midnight Sun’ tour


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MIDNIGHT SUN

Hello, again! Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Berlin Philharmonie…

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Summer for us is all about ‘Midnight Sun’. Our tour of Germany and Austria in June and July is named after this phenomenon of the sun never setting at night – a natural wonder that can be experienced around the time of the summer solstice in the far north of Norway, Finland, Sweden, Russia and other countries that straddle the Arctic Circle. ‘It’s a phenomenon that only the populations of the north are favoured with,’ says Kristjan. ‘It unites Nordic communities, and with this tour we are proclaiming a message of Nordic unity.’

‘Midnight Sun’ will take the orchestra to Berlin’s Philharmonie on 26 June and the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie on 2 July. We will also give a special ‘Midnight Sun’ concert in Ossiach, Austria, on 29 June. Tickets for the Elbphilharmonie concert, our second time performing at this spectacular waterside venue, sold out in just eleven minutes, but there are still some tickets available for Berlin and Ossiach, so don’t miss out!

After opening with a special collaboration with Estonian singer Mick Pedaja, the ‘Midnight Sun’ programme travels up to the far north with Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Cantus Arcticus, his concerto for birds and orchestra that features taped birdsong recorded around the Arctic Circle and in the marshlands of Liminka in northern Finland. Then Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen, who joined us on tour for the first time in September 2018, returns to perform four works with the orchestra, beginning with Kristjan’s Aurora, which is inspired by the magical lights of the aurora borealis. Mari describes Aurora as ‘like a journey into space: you have the feeling that you’re floating out between the stars and the planets.’ In Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, a classic example of his ‘tintinnabuli’ style, the violinist plays solo variations over strings and percussion, combining virtuosic thrills with serene lyricism. A meditative quality imbues Pēteris Vasks’s second violin concerto Lonely Angel, and our final piece with Mari, Max Richter’s Dona Nobis Pacem, builds from quiet contemplation to powerful climax in an emotion-packed few minutes.

‘Midnight Sun’ culminates with more magical light, this time courtesy of the mythical Firebird of Russian folklore, in Stravinsky’s 1945 orchestral version of his great ballet The Firebird. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic was the first orchestra in the world to perform this work entirely from memory, on its ‘Baltic Folk’ tour in 2017. Since then, memorised performances have become a trademark of the orchestra, and for ‘Midnight Sun’ we’ll be playing the whole programme by heart. ‘Performing from memory is all about chemistry and communication,’ says Kristjan. Playing by heart certainly intensifies the connection between the players, bringing them closer together, and is a natural reflection of our mission to unite people across the whole Nordic region.

See our concert calendar for more details about ‘Midnight Sun’, and to book tickets


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MIDNIGHT SUN

Hello, again! Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Berlin Philharmonie…

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Tickets go on sale today for the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s ‘Midnight Sun’ concertsat the Berlin Philharmonieon 26 June and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonieon 2 July. We’re delighted to be returning to the Philharmonie for the first time since 2014, and the Elbphilharmonie will always have a special place in our hearts after our unforgettable debut there in August 2017, when we gave an impromptu post-concert performance for hundreds of people outside the hall. Both ‘Midnight Sun’ concerts are presented by the Baltic Sea Music Education Foundation e. V.

‘Midnight Sun’ is a celebration of nature and Nordic unity. The phenomenon of the sun never setting at night is experienced around the time of the summer solstice in the far north of Norway, Finland, Sweden, Russia and other countries that straddle the Arctic Circle. ‘It’s a phenomenon that only the populations of the north are favoured with,’ says Kristjan. ‘It unites Nordic communities, and with this musical programme we are reiterating that message of Nordic unity.’

‘Midnight Sun’ opens with Rautavaara’s Cantus Arcticus, his concerto for birds and orchestra that features taped birdsong recorded around the Arctic Circle and in the marshlands of Liminka in northern Finland. Violinist Mari Samuelsen will then join the orchestra to perform Kristjan’s Northern Lights-inspired Aurora, Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, Pēteris Vasks’s Vientuļais Eņģelis(Lonely Angel), and Dona Nobis Pacemby Max Richter. ‘Midnight Sun’ climaxes with more magical light, this time courtesy of the mythical Firebird of Russian folklore, in Stravinsky’s 1945 orchestral version of his great ballet The Firebird.

If you’ve never seen an orchestra perform from memory, these ‘Midnight Sun’ concerts in Berlin and Hamburg will be a revelation. With the music stands gone from the stage, and most of the players standing and free to move, the dynamism of the presentation brings a thrilling extra dimension to the performance. Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Book tickets for the Berlin Philharmonie concert here, and for the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie concert here

Tickets for Berlin: 29 EUR | 24 EUR | 17 EUR

Tickets for Hamburg: 95 EUR | 75 EUR | 55 EUR | 35 EUR | 20 EUR


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‘Nordic Pulse’, ‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Divine Geometry’ are the three major tours for the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi in 2019. Each one promises to be an exhilarating adventure, with new music, new collaborations and a country premiere all part of the excitement. This year will once again see the orchestra performing in some of Europe’s most prestigious concert venues, including Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, the Philharmonie in Berlin and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. We’ll also be returning to some of our favourite festivals – the Merano Music Festival in Italy and the Usedom Music Festival in Germany.

Joining us on our ‘Nordic Pulse’ tour in March is Swiss violinist David Nebel, who made his debut with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic last July, and who’ll be performing concertos by Gediminas Gelgotas and Pēteris Vasks this time. Also returning as a soloist is Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen, who’ll be playing no fewer than four pieces with the orchestra on its ‘Midnight Sun’ tour of Germany in June and July. American pianist Simone Dinnerstein makes her debut with us in September, performing Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in ‘Divine Geometry’, a programme exploring the fascinating connections between Baroque music and Minimalism. The ‘Divine Geometry’ concert at the Usedom Music Festival on 21 September will be extra special, as it will include the German premiere of Steve Reich’s 2018 work Music forEnsemble and Orchestra, a piece co-commissioned by the Baltic Sea Philharmonic with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Last November’s experience of performing the entire ‘Waterworks’ programme from memory in Dubai and Abu Dhabi was such a success that the musicians will be playing another full programme by heart this year, on the ‘Midnight Sun’ tour. Memorised performances have become a trademark of the orchestra, and they’ll be more of them to come in 2019.

See our concert calendar at this blog for the latest details about our 2019 tours


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