Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra dig deep into Stravinsky and HK Gruber as part of captivating 2017–18 season. Programme includes Busoni’s Piano Concerto with Garrick Ohlsson, the music of Andrea Tarrodi, and concerts by Gustavo Dudamel, Riccardo Muti and Franz Welser-Möst.
“The orchestra can call itself one of the world's best … not only because the technical level is stunning but also because it demonstrates genuine character,” Die Welt, November 2015
In recent years Stockholm has emerged as a global capital for trailblazing innovation and adventure in orchestral programming. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2017-18 season boldly underlines the point, thanks to its compelling repertoire range, commitment to artistic quality and clear vision of the concert experience. Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo leads the way with programmes spanning everything from symphonies by Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler to the Scandinavian premiere of HK Gruber’s Piano Concerto and a rare outing for Busoni’s spectacular Piano Concerto. The orchestra will turn its repertoire radar on contemporary music throughout the season, with HK Gruber the subject of its annual International Composer Festival (Thursday 16 – Friday 24 November). There are also festival outings for Stravinsky and the young Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi, and red-letter dates with guest conductors Herbert Blomstedt, Gustavo Dudamel, Manfred Honeck, Riccardo Muti and Franz Welser-Möst.
“The coming season shows the breadth and depth of what we do,” comments Stefan Forsberg, Executive and Artistic Director of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. “We like to dig into the work of particular composers and our composer-led festivals in the autumn and spring are an important part of that. These allow audiences to get to know the music over a concentrated period. We will look at Stravinsky in the coming season for no other reason than we love his music; and we will raise HK Gruber’s profile in Sweden with a festival of his accessible yet complex, wild yet irresistible compositions.”
The RSPO’s composer profiles and presentation of new work have helped build a genuine sense of audience trust in the orchestra’s programming and an appreciation of its spirit of adventure. “We are focused on renewing the repertoire in the best possible way,” notes Stefan Forsberg, “through commissioning new works and exploring neglected compositions. We’re also determined to discover outstanding music by women, pieces that are rarely if ever performed.” The RSPO continues its long-term focus on women composers in 2017-18, promoting a Composer Weekend devoted to the work of Stockholm-based Andrea Tarrodi (Thursday 12 – Sunday 15 April) and programming pieces by everyone from Amy Beach and Britta Byström to Anna Thorvaldsdóttir and Victoria Borisova-Ollas. “Our new season includes works by some forty female composers, not to fill gender quotas but because, they are excellent pieces of music.” Forsberg concludes.
Stravinsky occupies the RSPO’s festival spotlight from Thursday 12 – Saturday 21 October. Sakari Oramo will conduct the first programme, which opens with Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for string orchestra to mark the 70th anniversary of its first performance in 1947. Kirill Gerstein, described by the New York Times as ‘one of the most respected pianists of his generation’, is set to take the solo part in the composer’s Piano Concerto. The concert also includes the revised 1947 version of Petrushka. Members of the RSPO will explore Stravinsky’s Octet and Suite from The Soldier’s Tale on Sunday 15 October in a programme that also contains Danssvit by RSPO principle trumpeter Joakim Agnas.
Oramo returns on 19 & 21 October to conduct the Swedish premiere of Stravinsky’s recently rediscovered Funeral Song, and is joined by Elina Vähälä in the composer’s neoclassical Violin Concerto. The weekend closes with The Rite of Spring. “We will explore the different facets of Stravinsky in this festival,” the conductor comments. “It’s a celebratory way to open the season. Playing this music is not so common for the orchestra. Of course, they know The Rite of Spring. But it’s exciting for me that we will perform works such as the concertos for piano and violin and the Concerto in D.”
For the latest in its series of acclaimed International Composer Festivals, the RSPO has chosen to feature the inimitable art of HK Gruber. The Austrian composer spent 40 years of his career as an orchestral double-bass player. “All you need to learn as a composer, you learn in the orchestra – much better than any teacher,” he has said. “I learned very early to prepare a language which only I can speak.” The distinctive, often anarchic nature of Gruber’s music can be heard alongside works by the composer’s ‘god’, Igor Stravinsky and scores by Kurt Weill, Kurt Schwertsik, Igor Markevitch and Johann Strauss II.
“HK Gruber is a real character and always a joy to work with,” comments Sakari Oramo. “He has devised the festival’s programme, will conduct and be chansonnier in his ‘pan-demonium’ Frankenstein!!, sing Weill songs, and conduct his into the open … and Markevitch’s sinfonia concertante Le Nouvel Âge.” The RSPO and its Chief Conductor launch the orchestra’s International Composer Festival on Thursday 16 November with the first of two performances of Gruber’s fusion of ‘Waltz King’ Strauss’s Perpetuum mobile polka with his own orchestral showpiece Charivari. Their programme includes Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, Gruber’s Dancing in the Dark and the Scandinavian premiere of his new Piano Concerto, a Royal Stockholm Philharmonic co-commission with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Tonhalle Zurich. Emanuel Ax, for whom the work was written, will perform the solo part.
Sakari Oramo’s 2017–18 appearances with the RSPO include concerts devoted to works by Beethoven, Saariaho and Sibelius (Thursday 25 & Saturday 27 January); an all-Beethoven programme with the Violin Concerto, performed by the orchestra’s concertmaster Andrej Power, and the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony (Wednesday 31 January & Thursday 1 February); and the combination of Jubilate by Swedish composer Benjamin Staern, Bartók’s Violin Concerto No.1 with Vilde Frang as soloist, and Mahler’s Symphony No.1 (Thursday 26 & Saturday 28 April). He will also conduct one of the season’s standout events on Thursday 5 & 7 April, presenting Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony in company with Ferruccio Busoni’s monumental five-movement Piano Concerto. The American pianist Garrick Ohlsson will perform the latter’s formidable solo part, while the men of the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir will deliver its closing chorus, a setting of words by the Danish poet Adam Oehlenschläger.
“Garrick Ohlsson, as his name suggests, has some Swedish elements in his blood,” notes Oramo. “We did the Busoni together in London at the end of 2014, and his performance of this incredibly demanding piece was so remarkable. For me, this is music for the 21st century. It has all the richness you could ever want and spans everything from the humorous, almost grotesque to the deep and introspective, touching every shade in between.”
Gustavo Dudamel, who first worked with the RSPO over a decade ago, joins the orchestra for the annual Nobel Prize Concert on Friday 8 December. Their programme comprises Mozart’s Symphony No.41 ‘Jupiter’ and Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra. The orchestra is set to resume its association with other distinguished guest conductors in 2017-18. Riccardo Muti will conduct Schubert’s Symphony No.4 ‘Tragic’ and Brahms’s Symphony No.2 on Thursday 18 & Friday 19 January; Franz Welser-Möst directs the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No.4 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No.6 on Wednesday 8 & Thursday 9 November, before conducting his own arrangement of Beethoven’s ‘Grosse Fuge’, Estonian neoexpressionist composer Mirjam’s Tally’s Lament and Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony on Thursday 22 & 24 February; and Herbert Blomstedt celebrates his 90th year and long association with Stockholm on Thursday 17 May with Berwald’s Symphony No.3 ‘Singulière’ and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.
Over the next four seasons, the RSPO intends to develop fresh ways of presenting classical music and of enhancing the concert experience for its audiences. The strategy has been inspired in part by the success of clarinettist Martin Fröst’s three-year Genesis project, which concludes with concerts on Thursday 31 May & Saturday 2 June. “We will begin by extending the range of our work in 2017-18,” notes Stefan Forsberg. “There will be new chamber music series involving members of the orchestra, some special projects with film, and storytelling with music, where we will aim to place the focus on the environment and our need to take better care of this planet. The photographer Matthias Klum will join the orchestra to present a big project with the conceptual artist Iris Alexandrov next February. We hope this will give our audience a taste of what we plan to do over the next four or five years.”