O/Modernt Festival: Mis/Reading Beethoven

O/Modernt Festival: Mis/Reading Beethoven

Lisa Ferland explains why O/Modernt is a unique experience for all to enjoy.

Confidencen Theatre
Photo by author

The program of the O/Modernt Festival never disappoints. One can attend all of the performances in the program and find something new and engaging.

Over the years, Slow Travel Stockholm writers have attended the concerts, and every description is remarkably different.

Violinist and O/Modernt’s artistic director, Hugo Ticciati, designs innovative programs that feature chamber music from the 18th century.

He brings the power of the musician to the forefront of the stage in ways that are engaging and exciting for the senses.

Mis/Reading Beethoven

This year’s O/Modernt Festival’s theme was Mis/Reading Beethoven and highlighted the immense impact Beethoven’s music had on musicians worldwide.

The 18th century comes alive in the Ulriksdal Palace Theatre Confidencen, Sweden’s oldest rococo theatre.

The air is filled with grace and anticipation as audience members enter the theatre and take their seats. With throats cleared, and phones silenced, the audience prepares to sit in rapt attention for the next 60 minutes.

O/Modernt celebrates history and brings it to life for modern audiences with a twist. Audiences always receive a fresh and innovative look at music from composers living in the 18th century.

The 2019 O/Modernt program was extra special this year as it was the first to inaugurate an annual competition award for composers under 40 years of age.

The winner this year was Frej Wedlund’sPiano Quintet (World Premiere) performed on 19 June 2019. His piece was written as a “misreading” of Beethoven’s third symphony, Heroica, as a starting point, during the Fallen Heroes section of the program.

Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Schubert’s Mis/Reading of Beethoven

Hugo took the stage and introduced the theme and commented on Franz Schubert’s Octet in F Major, D 803.

Schubert and Beethoven both lived in Vienna for 21 years before Beethoven died. It is unknown if Beethoven knew of Schubert’s brilliance but it is well-known that Schubert was aware and greatly influenced by Beethoven.

Some say Schubert added a second violinist to create his octet to separate himself from Beethoven’s septet, but who is to know for sure?

The theme for all of Sunday’s performances centered around Beethoven’s love of nature. There was no doubt that Schubert’s Octet composition reflects that playful communion between man and nature.

Schubert loosened the traditional symphonic principles and rules with his Octet by introducing a new romantic lyricism to the movements.

Though not popular in Schubert’s day, his experimentation with the Octet remains an essential contribution and influence on the later compositions in the romantic era.

Confidencen Theatre by Lisa Ferland
Confidencen Theatre
Photo by author

The Performance

The performance began with all musicians making eye contact to hit their notes in unison—an F keynote in forte.

The clarinet, horn, and cello players sustained the tone and provided a solid base for the violins and viola to slowly build and ease the audience into the performance as they danced from the F to the next measure.

Building in layers, the musicians darted in and out of their solo performances. Like an athletic team, they made eye contact and synchronized their breathing to support one another.

The mood started romantic and moved to triumphant with loud bursts with everyone playing in rhythm.

The spirit then turned playful as Christoffer Sundqvist on clarinet lightly danced in a near improvisation from note to note as if the notes were prancing through the forest on a sunny day.

Throughout the Octet, the musicians looked as if they were wrestling with an unseen force. Their bodies rocked and swayed as each note came forth from within them, erupting through their instruments.

Priya Mitchell and Annette Walther twisted their torsos as they drew their bows up and down on their violins. Their fingers raced up and down the fingerboard in a flurry.

Schubert’s Octet is intricate and required intense concentration from every musician on stage.

While playing as a cohesive group, each musician must be an expert soloist as the baton passes to each player.

Audience members could see the transfer of the melody from musician to musician as their bodies reacted, catching the proverbial musical ball and taking on the melodic lead.

The musicians sat on the edge of their seats. Their upper bodies moved within the entire space and threatened to topple the music stand holding the sheet music.

Throughout the performance, the audience remained transfixed and silent—nobody displayed the usual signs of restlessness that accompany pieces of this length.

Schubert’s rebellious romantic, lyrical notes, first written 200 years ago, wholly transfixed an audience in 2019 proving that beautiful music is timeless.

For something incredible, impressive, and unique, buy your tickets for any performance in the 2020 O/Modernt Festival.

You will be amazed at how wonderful it is to visit the past.

Ulriksal slott photo by Lisa Ferland
Ulriksdal Palace
Photo by author

Learn more about O/Modernt here: https://omodernt.com/festival

Read about past O/Modernt Festivals

O/Modernt Music
Festival O/Modernt: Past, Present, and Unexpected

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Author: Lisa Ferland

Lisa Ferland is the Assistant Editor of Slow Travel Stockholm and mother to one ninja warrior and one dancing firefly who often trade descriptions regularly. Follow her writing at lisaferland.com or on Instagram.

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