“I have seldom heard the clarinet so well played,” commented the critic from Morgunblaðið when Dimitri Ashkenazy performed in Iceland a decade ago. Now Dimitri returns to Iceland with the infrequently heard concerto by French composer Jean Françaix, who is well known for vibrant and witty music. Dimitri lived in Iceland until the age of 9. He has appeared with orchestras and performed in famous concert halls the world over, including an appearance at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.
Joseph Bologne lived a life as extraordinary as any in the field of classical music. Born on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, he was the son of a landowner and his wife’s African slave. Bologne’s father took him to Paris, where the boy received a first-class education and became a popular composer and conductor favoured by none other than Marie Antoinette. Today he is remembered as the first classical composer of African descent. His music is light and playful in the spirit of Haydn and Mozart. The opener for this concert is a sprightly symphony written in 1780.
Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen Suite was a key work in the composer’s career, a lavish orchestral piece originally intended as the basis for an opera. Sibelius sought the material for the work in the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, as he often did. The young Lemminkäinen is one of the heroes of the epic. Carefree and heedless, he repeatedly gets himself into trouble, only to be extracted from his tribulations by his own magical skills and those of his mother. Among the movements of the suite is the tone poem The Swan of Tuonela, considered by many to be among Sibelius’ most beautiful compositions.
Conductor Eva Ollikainen, a regular guest of orchestras in Finland and Denmark, has become well known in recent years. On this, her fifth visit to Iceland, her fans know they can expect a marvellous concert when she stands at the podium.
Joseph Bologne: Symphony in D Major
Jean Françaix: Clarinet Concerto
Jean Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite
Dimitri Þór Ashkenazy