Iiro Rantala – Veneziana (2023)

Posted by Green on May 24, 2023as

320 | FLAC

The Italian city built in the water, a metropolis of art and music, a place of myths and yearnings, where renowned artists have created amazing work: Venice. How could its beauty and mystery, its architecture and its centuries of art history not be an abiding inspiration? First and foremost among those who left their musical mark on the city was Venetian-born Antonio Vivaldi, but Gustav Mahler’s connection also runs deep: ever since Luchino Visconti’s film of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”, the Adagietto from his Fifth Symphony has tended to be the first piece of music which comes to people’s minds when they think about Venice. For 500 years, the crème de la crème of the European music world played and composed here. Venice was where opera blossomed, with countless world premieres from Cavalli to Donizetti, and also works by foreign luminaries such as Prokofiev or Stravinsky. The latter requested that he be buried on Venice’s cemetery island of San Michele, near his friend, the art critic and impresario Sergei Diaghilev.

Siggi Loch, who curates the Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic series, also has an enduring fascination for Venice. And it was this which led him to commission Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala to compose music for a night “alla Veneziana”. Rantala’s new work for piano and a ten-piece chamber ensemble was premiered on 1 February 2023 with members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the Great Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie. It might sound at first like a strange move to entrust the creation of a musical homage to Venice to a Scandinavian, but Finnish pianist/composer Iiro Rantala has his own remarkable way of being open to the world and to different styles and genres, and since he also brings astonishing resources of humour and levity, this celebration of Venetian “leggerezza” was always going to have a special charm.

Trained to an equally high level in both jazz (at the Sibelius Academy) and in classical music (at the Manhattan School of Music), Rantala brings his playfulness to bear as he moves seamlessly between genres, doing what he does best: his own, unique thing.He performs with greats of Finnish classical music such as the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and works as soloist with international orchestras, above all with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, with whom he has recorded two albums. In 2017, Rantala’s first piano concerto “Concerto for Piano and Concerto in G#majAb ” was premiered in Helsinki in an orchestration by the Finnish violinist/composer/conductor, the late Jaakko Kuusisto. In 2018, the opera “Sanatorio Express” followed, premiered at Finnish National Opera. Then, in October 2021, Rantala delighted a young audience with the children’s opera “The Magic Melodica”, commissioned by Komische Oper Berlin.

Rantala’s musical take on Venice tells stories that could have taken place in this city of myths and legends. He says. “I did a lot of research on the city’s music and art history, but from there I just had to let my imagination run wild.” So the eight fictional tales which constitute Rantala’s “Veneziana” could only have happened because of the particular circumstances of its composition: necessity can sometimes be turned into a virtue. These are stories full of compositional ingenuity, instrumental virtuosity and, as usual for Rantala, humour. In the opening piece, “Gondola Ride to St. Mark’s Square”, he imagines a Swedish family coming to Venice for the first time and boarding a gondola – while squabbling and scrapping about mundane family matters. Rantala also brings Mozart, Prokofiev and his great compatriot Sibelius to Venice through this route, and reminds us of Monteverdi and his ideas…with a knowing smile. In “Vivaldi’s ADHD”, the creator of the “Four Seasons” (and eighteenth century rock star) ponders what Scandinavian winters might sound like. The last track on the album “Morte a Venezia” is a funeral march in homage to the multitude of great artists who lived and died in Venice.

Iiro Rantala takes us through a kaleidoscope of different sound worlds, bringing a virtuoso sense of flow, melodic richness, drama and wide-screen technicolor emotion: “Veneziana” is an enlivening and highly distinctive portrait of a city. One might call it programme music, but it is of a kind that only Iiro Rantala can write…where the listener, as in the winding streets of Venice, will find a new surprise behind every musical corner: Viva Venezia!!!

Iiro Rantala / piano & conductor

Mitglieder der Berliner Philharmoniker:
Marlene Ito , Eva Tomasi / violin
Martin Stegner / viola
Dávid Adorján / cello
Esko Laine / double bass
Jelka Weber / flute
Sofia Zamora Meseguer / oboe
Matic Kuder / clarinet
Selim Aykal / bassoon
Johannes Lamotke / horn

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