Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus has come up with an innovative idea a week on Saturday, the 20th of February, as it embarks on its 80th anniversary year.
Following a largely Nordic-themed concert, including Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, from The Hallé in the Sheffield International Concert Season, the Phil is offering more music by the Finnish composer at 9.30pm down in the City Hall’s Ballroom.
It is the original (almost!) version of Rakastava and forms part of a sort of vocal epilogue to the Hallé’s concert – conducted by a Finn, Okko Kamu! – along with pieces by a couple of Baltic composers, Arvo Pärt and Ēriks Ešenvalds.
Most people will be familiar with Rakastava (The Beloved, or Lover) from the three-movement orchestral suite the composer cobbled in 1912, the work’s third incarnation!
It was written originally as a cycle of three songs for unaccompanied male voice choir for a singing competition in 1894 when Sibelius was struggling to make his way as a composer.
He subsequently arranged it for unaccompanied mixed choir four years later which became more popular – the version being performed here!
The texts, usually performed without a break, are taken from the first volume of a collection of Finnish folk poetry and depict a man initially yearning for his absent love with a touch of melancholy: ‘Where is my Beloved?’
He descends into tenderness as he points to the path where “my beloved’s steps have trod,” before the work ends with the lovers parting as the music gets ever more sorrowful.
Arvo Pärt is represented by one of the masterpieces employing his self-created tintinnabuli style, the Magnificat setting from 1989. Did you know, by the way, that Pärt has been the most frequently performed living composer in the world for the last five years?
The young Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds, born 1977, is already well on the way as a challenger for the mantle with an extremely busy commission schedule and his choral music performed by choirs on every continent.
Most of his substantial output in a very short time is choral or vocal and between 2011-13 he was a Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge. The most recent recording of his music has come from the Choir of Trinity College!
Two pieces by Ešenvalds are performed by the Phil, Vakars, an eight-part setting from 2006 of Sara Teasdale’s poem Evening – we are told to ‘listen out for the night birds singing!’ – and a seven-part arrangement from 2009 of a Latvian folk song, Lielupe – The River Lielupe!
The event is free, but a ticket is required and you do not need to go to the preceding Hallé concert, although that is the audience the Phil is hoping to attract.
Go on; it’s an attractive proposition and will be done and dusted by 10pm!