Vinterfest 2013 in Dalecarlia

SwedenSweden Vinterfest 2013. Dalecarlia 14-17.2.2013 (GF)

For the eighth year in a row Musik i Dalarna (Music in Dalecarlia) arranged Vinterfest, a wintry equivalent to Musik vid Siljan, the festival held in the beginning of July every year since 1969. The winter version is masterminded by clarinettist Martin Fröst, who invites friends and colleagues from all over the world. They offer world class concerts in several places north of Lake Siljan and one selling point, besides the music, is the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. After one of the concerts a torchlight procession was arranged through the streets of Mora, an exotic and beautiful tradition. I was able to attend the first three concerts this year.

The first of these took place in Sollerö Church. Sollerön is an island in Lake Siljan, where people have lived at least since the 10th century. The theme for this concert was Faith and the music had close connections with the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt, where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered during WW2 and hundreds of thousands were held for months or years before being sent to the extermination camps Treblinka and Auschwitz. Most of the composers of the music presented in the first part of the concert also died, only Karel Berman, the well known Czech bass survived and later described his horrible experiences of the imprisonment in his Reminiscences Suite for piano, which wasn’t published until after his death. Anne Sophie von Otter, accompanied by Bengt Forsberg, piano and Anders Jakobsson, violin, sang songs by Ilse Weber, Karel Svenk, Adolf Strauss, Carlo Sigmund Taube and Victor Ullmann, many of them light and hopeful, though Ullmann’s Beryozkele was in a more serious mood. There was also an operetta song by Emmerich Kálmán, with a text by an anonymous poet, also stemming from Theresienstadt. A Serenade for violin and piano by Robert Dauber was also included. Before the interval Martin Fröst, violinist Alina Pogostkina and Bengt Forsberg played Bela Bartok’s Contrasts. Bartok managed to leave Hungary in 1938 and settle in the US and there, as a refugee, he composed this work for Benny Goodman, Joszef Szigety and himself.

After the interval Fröst, Anthony Marwood, violin, Christian Poltéra, cello and Igor Levit, piano performed Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, composed in a German prison camp 1940-1941. This is enormously gripping music and it goes without saying that all the music making during this concert was of the highest order.

The following day thetre was a lunchtime concert in the Mission Church at Orsa. The title was Der Leiermann, after the last song in Schubert’s Winterreise, and it was this song that opened the concert sung by the eminent baritone Olle Persson, accompanied by Bengt Forsberg. He remained at the piano for the next piece, Wie der alte Leiermann, a set of variation on the Schubert song by Leonid Desyatnikov (b. 1955) for viola and piano. There were reminiscences of both folk fiddling, impressionism and even jazz. Maxim Rysanov, the master violast who became a household name world wide when he was solist at The Last Night of the Proms a couple of years ago. He seems to have no technical limitations at all. There followed Schubert’s song Der Tod und das Mädchen with Olle Persson and then Schubert’s string quartet in D minor, where one of the movements is based on this song. Alina Pogostkina and Karen Gomyo, violin, Maxim Rysanov, viola and Christian Poltéra, cello played with sensitivity and energy and the final movement was a real tour de force. You can’t imagine this music better played that by these electrifying musicians.

The same evening the official inauguration concert took place in Mora Church with Dalasinfoniettan conducted by Michael Schönwandt. They opened with Charles Ives’s enigmatic The Unanswered Question and then Norwegian master pianist Leif Ove Andsnes was the soloist in Beethoven’s piano concerto No. 2. Always elegant and with crystal clear articulation he presented a reading in Mozartean vein. The orchestra played beautifully.

After the interval one of this year’s bicentenarians, Richard Wagner, was commemorated. Anne Sofie von Otter sang the Wesendonck Lieder, but not in Mottl’s orchestral version this time. Instead we were treated to Hans Werner Henze’s version from 1976, which is darker than Mottl’s, primarily through his writing for low woodwind. von Otter sang the cycle exquisitely. As a rousing finale to the concert Dalasinfoniettan and Michael Schönwandt let their hair down in the invigorating Galántai táncok, (Dances from Galanta) by Zoltán Kodály. There were many happy smiles in the well filled church!

Göran Forsling