Report from Kuhmo

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Christoffer von Bonsdorff sends this report from the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 1998:

I had the luck to visit Kuhmo chamber festival this summer. I live in Helsinki in the south of Finland and Kuhmo lies far north near the Russian border and I first visited a foklore festival in Kaustinen in the north-west.

I heard the quartets no. 5-10 (in reverse order) and some songs and chamber music by HVL and other Brazilians - Pixinguinha, Nazareth, Gnattali (also non-Brazilians like Janácek, Dvorák, Bartók, Sibelius, Milhaud etc, who, by the way, like HVL represent the ethnically inspired music of our century - when will we hear the music of the Bulgarian Pancho Vladigerov?) As I am a big fan of HVL (I once wrote a letter to the festival and suggested that they should play the string quartets) I really enjoyed the program. I heard a sample of Villa-Lobos´ different periods: the 8th, 9th and 10th which are a little heavy and atonal, and then some more light folkloristic ones. I especially liked the Lithuanian Ciurlionis-quartet who made very intensive interpretations of nrs 7 and 9, the German Henschel quartet (nr 6) and the Uusi Helsinki-kvartetti (nr 8).

From the indiviudual performances I will like especially to mention a brilliant and dynamic Fantasia concertante (in my opinion one of his best works) by the trio Brunner, Särkkä, Lagerspetz and Suite for soprano and violin performed by the Swedish singer Gitta-Maria Sjöberg and Ik-Hwan Bae.

In the late evenings there were cavaquinho-guitar duets and some Brazilian jazz, a nice complement to the chamber music.

I hope the different quartets will use the opportunity to record some of the pieces, which still are very badly known and often criticized because they don´t always follow the classical rules of European music (it is not European after all!). We could appreciate it as a kind of "world music".

Christoffer von Bonsdorff



Note from 2008:

Ten years after Christoffer's report the original link to the Kuhmo Festival is dead. However, there is a page of information on the current site with historical information . Here is the first part of the section on 1998:

1998

“Thematically this year´s festival was very successful. It was very well received by the audience and the artistic level was perhaps more consistent than ever before”, said the Artistic Director Seppo Kimanen about the 29th Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. ”The greatest surprise for me was the theme History of the String Quartet turning so popular among the public that the church was literally filled every morning. This deep, difficult, and sensitive genre of music making is very often thought to be appreciated only by a devoted few, but this year´s festival showed clearly that The Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival´s audience is truly able to seek and understand the profound and permanent values in music. This year´s theme for string quartet presented works from a 230 year period which gave a good overview on the essential history of western music.”

The Brazilian theme attracted both listeners and Brasilian musicians. The programme included music which was previously unknown even to them and they highly appreciated it being presented in Kuhmo. Some of them said that they certainly heard more Brazilian art music here in Kuhmo during the two week festival than would have been possible in a year in Brazil. As far as we know it was the first time ever to have the possibility to hear all 17 string quartets of the highly productive and magnificient Brasilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.