Baltic Sea Philharmonic
The Baltic Sea Philharmonic takes the orchestral concert experience to a new dimension. Every performance is a voyage of musical discovery, as the musicians perform the entire programme from memory, creating a one-of-a-kind artistic journey. Each concert is a unique spectacle of sound, light, visual art and technology, and under the electrifying baton of Music Director and Founding Conductor Kristjan Järvi every performance has a special energy that’s absolutely infectious. But even more than this, as a community of musicians from ten Nordic countries, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic transcends boundaries and has become a movement for bringing people together. Embodying all that is innovative and progressive about the Nordic region, this visionary ensemble is taking the traditional orchestral model further than ever before. ‘It is a living breathing creature, with boundless energy and enthusiasm for the new – an adventure in itself,’ says Kristjan Järvi.
Bringing together musicians from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic started life in 2008 and won immediately acclaim for its performances and its powerful message of unity in a historically divided region. The orchestra plays at renowned festivals and in the most prestigious concert halls in Europe and beyond, including the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the Dubai Opera. The world’s finest artists from classical stars such as Julia Fischer, Jonas Kaufmann, Kurt Masur and Gidon Kremer to pop bands like Bastille, have all performed with the orchestra. In 2015 the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s achievements were honoured with the prestigious European Culture Prize by the European Culture Foundation ‘Pro Europe’. As the orchestra’s international reputation grew, so did its educational ambitions, and it expanded the training and professional development opportunities for its musicians.
The orchestra is well known for its innovative programmes that throw classical music conventions out of the window and enable audiences and the musicians alike to experience new musical dimensions. The groundbreaking ‘Waterworks’ (2017/18), in collaboration with Sunbeam Productions, fused music, light, sound design, visual art and fashion to spectacular effect. ‘Baltic Folk’ (2017) featured the first ever memorised performance of Stravinsky’s The Firebird which by now has become a trademark piece for the orchestra. ‘Nordic Pulse’ (2018-20) is an innovative celebration of the North, with music by composers of all ten Baltic Sea countries performed completely by heart. ‘Midnight Sun’ (2019) introduced a new model of performing the complete programme not just from memory but also without breaks or intermission, thus creating a seamless flow of music as one musical track. ‘Divine Geometry’ (2019), also completely performed by heart, included the German premiere of Steve Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, a work co-commissioned by the Baltic Sea Philharmonic.
The orchestra’s growing discography with Kristjan Järvi includes three acclaimed recordings for Sony Classical. The first of these, The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure, an arrangement for orchestra of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, was released in 2016. A recording featuring the orchestra and Swiss violinist David Nebel in Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto was released in 2020 and was nominated for the 2021 ICMA Classical Music Awards in the concertos category. Also in 2020 Sony Classical released Sleeping Beauty, with Järvi conducting the orchestra in his innovative arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s ballet as a dramatic symphony. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and David Nebel also recorded Järvi’s uplifting piece Aurora for the conductor–composer’s 2020 album Nordic Escapes, which was released on BMG’s Modern Recordings.
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting live performances in 2020, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic responded with innovative digital projects connecting musicians and music fans around Europe and across the world. ‘Musical Chain’, which launched in July 2020, takes the virtual orchestra concept in a completely fresh direction, bringing musicians from the orchestra together with other artists and creative collaborators. The project has so far featured four strikingly original music remix videos: ‘Midnight Mood’, based on Grieg’s ‘Morning Mood’ from Peer Gynt; ‘Beethoven’s Twilight’, inspired by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; ‘Ascending Swans’, based on Sibelius’s ‘Song of Praise’ from the Swanwhite Suite; and ‘Nutty Christmas’, a fun seasonal take on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. For each video, Baltic Sea Philharmonic musicians recorded audio tracks at home and filmed themselves outside in atmospheric landscapes. Kristjan Järvi then mixed the audio and a professional video production team edited the final videos, which were released on the orchestra’s social media channels.
In 2021 ‘Musical Chain’ will continue with further collaborations and special guest artists. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi feature in a new Amazon Prime Video documentary, ReOrchestrated, about the evolution of British pop band Bastille’s orchestral collaborations. The film released in February includes footage from the Baltic Sea Philharmonic’s wildly successful January 2020 charity concert with Bastille at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. In January Amazon Music released an associated single, ‘Warmth ReOrchestrated’, recorded live at the Elbphilharmonie performance. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi are hoping to return to the stage in August 2021, with the orchestra due to make its Romanian debut at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest. There it will collaborate with pianist Maria João Pires and violinist Viktoria Mullova in two contrasting programmes, one featuring music by Mozart and Enescu, and the other including works by Arvo Pärt and Tchaikovsky. Also on the orchestra’s calendar for 2021 is a tour of Italy, Slovenia, Germany and Poland with a new programme, ‘Nordic Swans’, featuring music by Arvo Pärt, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. The tour will include concerts at the Merano Music Festival, the Ljubljana Festival, the Usedom Music Festival and the Szczecin Philharmonie.