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Work of the Week – Olli Mustonen: Taivaanvalot

Olli Mustonen, photo: Heikki Tuuli

A symphony for only three performers is an unusual challenge for a composer to set himself. This is, however, exactly what Olli Mustonen has done in his recent work for tenor, cello and piano, Taivanvaalot, which receives its world premiere on 26 September at the Musiekgebouw, Amsterdam performed by Ian Bostridge (tenor), Steven Isserlis (cello) and Olli Mustonen (piano).

Olli Mustonen: Taivanvaalot – Symphony for three

Taivanvaalot, which translates to “Heavenly Lights”, invokes an ambition equal to its subtitle “Symphony”. The work sets fragments from the Kalevala, a collection of heroic Finnish poems by Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), primarily in an English translation, though the central speech of Vänäimoinen is sung in Finnish. For Mustonen, the composition of Taivaanvalot was a way to convey the meaning of the Finnish poems without losing essential elements of the text.

A transmission in music seemed to be the right way for me to expose the difficult, sometimes even mesmerizing and shamanic qualities of this poetry to an audience unfamiliar with our unusual language. – Olli Mustonen

Following the concert in Amsterdam, Taivaanvalot will be performed at Wigmore Hall in London on 20 September and on 9 October at the Concertgebouw in Bruges.