A couple of really powerful impressions of dance have provided the inspiration for Babushka! .. I remember the Swedish Royal Opera, at the end of the 1980’s, standing in the wings waiting to enter. We were surrounded by dancers; quiet, expectant, focused, they stretched in preparation of their entrance. We were in a world of fairytales. This memory is the moment before I and my violinistfriends entered the stage to play the grotesque dance duet during the dance lesson in Prokofiev’s Cinderella. The scene where the evil and clumsy sisters prepare for the ball at the castle was one of my first introductions to the art of ballet. For me as a young violinist, this was an unforgettable experience.
Another powerful impression of dance was when I saw dancer/choreographer Virpi Pahkinen dance to one of Bach’s partitas on Skeppsholmen. Ever since, I have been fascinated by her expressiveness and captivating presence.
So, here is a video with the mesmerizing Virpi Pahkinen. I am so thrilled to finaly collaborate with her, in Babushka!
..A few days ago I met up with choreographer and dancer Virpi Paakinen, to start to draw sketches for the placing and timing in the music she is setting choreography to. What an exciting process..
To me, Virpi is out of this world, breathtaking beyond comprehension. What I have experienced, watching her dance, will stay in my heart forever. You will be spellbound.
.In our second project in the Mupfie! series, I join forces with Musica Vitae once again. This time we look inside the Babushka – and what do we find..?
Stravinsky, Beethoven, Shostakovitch.. and the great fortune and thrill to premiere a version of the Gubaidulina string quartet Nr 4 for three live string quartets. We kneel before the grand old lady of Russian composers!
The new bright star Lera Auerbachs T’filah – Prayer for solo violin – will also have the magic touch of Virpis coreography.
Our October tour starts in Stockholm Concert Hall. Then Växjö, Copenhagen and Malmö..
Still some time to go.. but another journey has begun..Babushka!!
Ps The Babushka, also known as Matrioshka, is the famous Russian doll which contains numerous smaller dolls. A story within a story, within a story… The Story Within…
At 7 am yesterday morning, I got a mail from a gypsy king living at Hotel Cardinal in Växjö. It was a song he had written for me and Musica Vitae: “Few days in Växjö”…When I reflect on this last week of being around the wonderful orchestra Musica Vitae and dream cimbalom player Mihaly Farkas, I feel enormous gratitude. My heart is full with new energy, ideas and spirit. The music and the music making has been breathtaking, each and every one is such a personality and together we created something that was unique.
Yesterday was also Election Day in Hungary. The extreme-right party Jobbik took 24 of a total of 199 parliament seats. I could feel Mihaly’s sadness at the breakfast this morning.
The Gypsies and the Jews get the blame for most what is wrong in the Hungarian society today. Racism is only escalating. Will this black whirl never end? I don’t know.. I guess we will always have this problem. But there is always a way. Little by little..We see and we change..I feel we did something that brought us together as an orchestra, and in the concerts brought us closer to the audience.
Meeting and spending time with Mihály Farkas was no doubt exotic. We love him. Not only because he’s a wonderful musician, but because we mirror ourselves and see something in him that we love: adventure and passion. A few days in Växjö, and he certainly made a footmark. For instance at the Växjö Pool Society, where he won a unique example of the Predator ikon series billiard cue in a game of 9 ball – and on stage, where he tickled us with sparkling music making. I think we became more alive together and at times it felt like we were little children, playing with each other.
Musica Vitae is an orchestra that has all these qualities, wonderful, playful musicians, a sparkling bunch of people. It makes me happy, ticklish to think about it all. I think the Mupfie! Feeling is here to stay…
Béla Bartók’s Divertimento, which we perform on Friday, carries within it the reminder of the outbreak of the second World War… And it is colored with Roma accents, melodies and dances which he collected in Hungary.
So, Bartók collected Rumanian and Transylvanian Roma folk music – but he also collected flowers and insects, sounds which you also can experience in his music. When he worked on the Divertimento at Châlet Aellen, in Saanen (Berne), Switzerland in 1939, he sent his wife Ditta Edelweiss flowers and a letter, where he shared his concerns about the military build-up:
“The newspapers are full of military articles, they have taken defense measures on the more important passes etc. – military preparedness. I am also worried about whether I shall be able to get home from here, if this or that happens…”
The Divertimento was the last piece Bartók wrote before he fled to the United States: Bartók was strongly against Nazism, and shortly after his escape, Hungary was invaded by Germany.
I was in Budapest only a week ago, and I was reminded of how I used to frequent Restaurant Budapest in Stockholm with my friends to hear the mesmerizing cimbalom player Josef Feher play…which provided me with inspiration for Mustalainen! Here is a video with Josef’s nephew Mihaly, who steps in for him in next week’s concert, Star cimbalom player Mihály Farkas from the most famous band in Hungary, Budapest Bar is not only a wizard at the cimbalom, he is also a professional pool player! For Mustalainen!, we have made a special arrangement of Maurice Ravel´s passionate Tzigane with cimbalom – rather than the luthéal – a prepared piano which uses effects ressembling the cimbalom – of the original score…
The first concert in my concert series Mupfie! is called Mustalainen! – an homage to the great contribution the Romani have made to our musical heritage. With Musica Vitae, I will perform pieces by Brahms, Sibelius, Ravel and Django Reinhardt – all of which have that essence of pain, and of abandon, of the Romani soul.
Walking to the first rehearsal of Mustalainen! this morning in Växjö, once again – like almost every day in Stockholm – I see Romani beggars sitting or walking the streets. The other day a representative of the Romani council was refused breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel in Stockholm. It created headlines, but there are simillar incidents taking place every single day. Reminding us that they are one of the most persecuted peoples in history. One harassment following another. And every time we say that of course it’s a mistake, of course there was a misunderstanding. Because we are nice honest citizens and not discriminating.
Or are we just human?
What I see sometimes in the Romani people is something that am afraid to look at. I don’t want to admit that I share the pain and suffering that brought them there, but of course I do. Deep down I’m exactly the same. Just wearing a different mask. I just don’t want to be reminded of it. We all carry pain as a part of our life.
The Romani people are a constant reminder of that fact. Maybe they are more alive then we are? Maybe they are more real then we are? Is that what we are afraid of?
When I hear a Gipsy musician play I can feel something wild and untamed like the cry of a human being. And beauty, real human beauty. When I have played with Gipsy musicians I felt completely naked and vulnerable but after a while I feel love flowing through me and there is no more boundaries and I’m happy to be alive and to share something that is real and completely honest.
I hope it will be there in the concerts we will do next week. The music is so powerful, and if you let it come to you, well, maybe there will be less fear and more openness and love.
One of my great fascinations in music is that behind every piece there is a story. These layers of emotions clinging through history, all of them leading up to the moment when the music comes to life.
What also intrigues me is how all music reflects something within ourselves, and the fascinating process of making this a part of yourself. This time travel makes you a part of history, the moment and in the future.
Together we share these amazing journeys that sometimes change our own story, the story within…
Has music ever made you soar? The sensation that time stops, a moment one might savour for a long time…
This sensation which actually can’t be described in words became an exclamation of emotion – Mupfie! – which also is the title of my new concert series with Musica Vitae.
The launch of Mupfie! happens next Friday, April 4th in Växjö and is followed by a small tour to Eksjö and Malmö.
More on this later!