Blog / Pekka Reveals The Program

Pekka Reveals The Program

Posted on 26 Jan 2016 by Leo Messias

Pekka Kuusisto. Photo by Sonja Werner.

"The ACO’s 2016 season is themed around Beethoven’s late string quartets, and so this formed the basis of the program. After much discussion, Opus 95 was chosen as the closing work of the concert. I was then given the extremely delicate task of exploring repertoire which would both complement and introduce this highly experimental work.

Opus 95 has a particularly explosive opening statement, so we needed something very intimate and gentle to precede it, in order not to steal Beethoven’s thunder. Rakastava by Sibelius is the perfect thing, with a feel of very distinct lighting. At the risk of sounding like a tourist advert for my part of the planet, I’d say that it’s very much about dusk in a Fennoscandian forest, around mid-June. 

Everything in Rakastava feels and smells like nature at night, so we needed another kind of light before it. Cue Tenebre by Bryce Dessner (guitarist with The National). Originally written as a gift for the lighting designer of the Kronos Quartet, its shadows are very architectural. Tenebre is inspired by ceremonial vocal music, which ties it nicely to Rakastava as well, since the Sibelius work started its life as a suite for male choir, with lyrics from Finnish traditional poetry. Maybe we’ll sing a bit
in this concert as well.

The massive nod that Tenebre gives to earlier music is mirrored from Tippett’s Lament, which contains a direct quote from Ah, Belinda by Henry Purcell. Sir Michael Tippett’s amazing handling of a string orchestra has certainly been an inspiration to Bryce Dessner and Erkki-Sven Tüür.

Purcell's 'Ah, Belinda'. Yannis François dancing Dido.    

Tüür’s work also has some delicious Purcellian clashings, especially in the middle movement, and the warm and fuzzy activities in the low register constantly remind me of Vaughan Williams and Britten. The outer movements give us a healthy reminder to listen to Estonian prog rock, as well as echoing some moments from Britten’s Les Illuminations, which is convenient, since Britten is one of the heroes of Nico Muhly.

Estonian prog rock from 1973.

Nico’s beautiful collection of violin gestures is originally the first movement of a suite for violin and piano, and includes an element of contained improvisation, which is a lovely way to begin a concert. Both Nico and Bryce are dear friends of mine, and I’m ecstatic to get to bring their music to ACO Collective.

In the case of Beethoven’s Op.95, we are faced with a dilemma – Beethoven himself wrote that the work should not be performed to the general public, but only for a small circle of connoisseurs. I’m excited about the challenge and will dive into it trusting that Beethoven would have changed his mind upon hearing ACO Collective!"


Beethoven & The 21st Century

4-19 February
Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney

NICO MUHLY (arr. strings) Part I from Drones & Violin
ERKKI-SVEN TÜÜR Action–Passion–Illusion
TIPPETT A Lament from Variations on an Elizabethan Theme
BRYCE DESSNER (arr. strings) Tenebre
SIBELIUS Rakastava
BEETHOVEN (arr. strings) String Quartet in F minor, Op.95 ‘Serioso’