Leif Segerstam

Conductor

Leif Segerstam

Leif Segerstam (born March 2, 1944 in Vaasa) is a Finnish conductor and composer.

He studied violin, piano and conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and conducting at the Juilliard School in New York with Jean Morel.

He is currently the chief conductor of Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. He has held positions with numerous other orchestras, including the Danish National Radio Symphony and the Austrian Radio Symphony, and guest conducted many orchestras throughout the world including the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony and the Brazilian OSESP - the Symphony Orchestra of the State of Sâo Paulo. He is also the professor of conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. His students include Susanna Mälkki, Mikk Murdvee, Sasha Mäkilä and Markku Laakso.

He is widely known through his recorded discography, which includes the complete symphonies of Sibelius, Nielsen, and Mahler, as well as many works by contemporary composers such as the Finnish composers Einojuhani Rautavaara and the American composers John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse.

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Sibelius: Scaramouche, incidental music, Op. 71

Sibelius: Scaramouche, incidental music, Op. 71

Orchestral Works, Vol. 6


Bendik Goldstein (viola), Roi Ruottinen (cello)

Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam

The eloquent power of Jean Sibelius’s symphonies and other core orchestral works has overshadowed his prolific output in other genres, including significant scores for the theatre. The commission to compose music for the tragic pantomime Scaramouche caused Sibelius much stress and frustration, but on its première the composer was able to note “great success in Copenhagen” in his diary. With the exception of his one opera, Scaramouche is Sibelius’s only continuous dramatic score, the story of the sinister hunchbacked dwarf’s bewitching musicianship and evil intent taking us from innocent charm to a nightmarish conclusion.

Naxos Leif Segerstam Sibelius Orchestral Works - 8573511

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Sibelius: Swanwhite – Complete incidental Music

Sibelius: Swanwhite – Complete incidental Music

Orchestral Works, Vol. 5


Sibelius:

Ett ensamt skidspår (A Lonely Ski-Trail), JS77a (1925) for recitation and piano

Ödlan (The Lizard), Op. 8 - incidental music

Svanevit (Swanwhite), JS 189

The Countess's Portrait (Grevinnans konterfej)


So great was the effect of Sibelius’s incidental music for Maeterlinck’s play 'Pelléas et Mélisande' that August Strindberg, whose wife had performed the role of Mélisande, agreed that he should write the music for his as-yet unperformed play Svanevit (Swanwhite). Composing for an orchestra of thirteen, he wrote in a style reminiscent of Grieg, and both play and music were very well received by critics and audiences alike.

The play Ödlan (The Lizard) inspired Sibelius with its dreamlike atmosphere, while Ett ensamt skidspår (A Lonely Ski Trail) and Grevinnans konterfej (The Countess’ Portrait) show his skill in writing for drama on a miniature scale.

Leif Segerstam is a conductor, composer, violinist and pianist with a prominent international career. Since 2012 he has been Chief Conductor of Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. From autumn 1997 to spring 2013 Leif Segerstam was Professor of Orchestra Conducting at the Sibelius Academy. He was awarded the 1999 Nordic Council Music Prize for his work “as a tireless champion of Scandinavian music” and the Swedish Cultural Foundation’s Prize for Music in 2003. In 2004 Leif Segerstam was awarded the annual Finnish State Prize for Music and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. He has gained wide acclaim for his many recordings with different orchestras. While pursuing his conducting career, Segerstam has also produced an extensive oeuvre as a composer.

“Svanevit (Swanwhite) is a Symbolist fairy tale, relatively sunlit and delicate…Segerstam conducts with the measured, grave pace and detail that characterises the rest of this series” BBC Music Magazine, December 2015

“Leif Segerstam directs all this material with unhurried authority, abundant perception and heaps of character. Likewise, his willing Turku colleagues are with him every step of the way. Admirable production values and useful notes, too. A job well done.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2015

Naxos Leif Segerstam Sibelius Orchestral Works - 8573341

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Sibelius: Jedermann

Sibelius: Jedermann

Orchestral Works, Vol. 4


Sibelius:

In memoriam, Op. 59 - Trauermarsch für Orchester

Jedermann, Op. 83

Earnest Melodies (2) for violin or cello & orchestra, Op. 77


Pia Pajala (soprano), Tuomas Katajala (tenor), Nicholas Soderland (bass), Mikaela Palmu (violin)

Cathedralis Aboensis Choir, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam

Rarely performed but recognized as a hidden masterpiece, Sibelius’s score for Jedermann is unusual in that the music closely follows the words and action of this morality play, intensifying Everyman’s hubris, penance, escape from the Devil’s clutches and ultimate salvation.

The Two Serious Melodies reflect Sibelius’ dark mood during the difficult years of World War I, while In memoriam resonates with his preoccupation with death in 1909 following a life-saving throat operation, and was performed at his own funeral in 1957.

This is the fourth of a six volume set that explores Jean Sibelius’s orchestral works beyond the higher profile symphonies, violin concerto and tone poems.

Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam is an acclaimed Sibelius interpreter, having been awarded the annual Finnish State Prize for Music in 2004, and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. In this fourth volume, platinum record-making and award winning orchestra, the Turku Philharmonic, accompanies a world class team of vocal soloists in Pia Pajala, Nicholas Söderlund and Tuomas Katajala, as well as the Cathedralis Aboensis Choir, which has a close association with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Segerstam's often daringly spacious conception absorbingly complements Vanska's splendid Lahti accont - diehard Sibelians will, I fancy, want to have both - while Turku PO member Mikaela Palmu responds with big-hearted dedication in the lovely Two Serious Melodies for violin and orchestra.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2015

Naxos Leif Segerstam Sibelius Orchestral Works - 8573340

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Sibelius: Pelléas et Mélisande

Sibelius: Pelléas et Mélisande

Orchestral Works, Vol. 3


Sibelius:

Pelléas and Mélisande Suite, Op. 46

Musik zu Einer Scène

Valse lyrique, Op. 96a

Valse chevaleresque, Op. 96c

Morceau romantique


Pia Pajala (soprano) & Sari Nordqvist (mezzo-soprano)

Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam

No sooner had Sibelius moved to the town of Järvenpää in 1904 than he was commissioned by the Swedish Theatre to write incidental music for Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande. At the time it was his most ambitious undertaking in the genre of incidental music and his setting included ten scenes, only one of which was cut when he adapted the piece as a concert suite. Dating from the same year, Musik zu einer Szene was originally intended to accompany a tableau and is full of striking contrasts. The two waltzes of 1921 are transcriptions of piano pieces, and reveal the potent influence of Tchaikovsky.

Naxos Leif Segerstam Sibelius Orchestral Works - 8573301

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Sibelius: Belshazzar’s Feast

Sibelius: Belshazzar’s Feast

Orchestral Works, Vol. 2


Sibelius:

Belshazzar's Feast, JS48

Overture in E major, JS145

Scène de ballet, JS163

Wedding March for Act III of Adolf Paul's play 'The Language of the Birds'

Cortège

Menuetto

Processional (‘Onward, Ye Peoples'), Op. 113 No. 6


Alongside the great symphonies and tone poems, music for the theatre played an important rolê in Sibelius’s development. From exquisite nocturnal tranquility to the macabre ‘Dance of Life’, Belshazzar’s Feast is an exotic tale of seduction and tragedy to which Sibelius responded with some of his most hauntingly beautiful writing for the stage. The early Menuetto and lively Cortège were considered good enough by the composer to be recycled for further stage productions, while the Overture in E and Scène de Ballet started life as Sibelius’s first attempt at composing a symphony.

This is the second of a six-volume set of orchestral works by Jean Sibelius which explores his prolific but infrequently-heard work beyond the core oeuvre of the symphonies, violin concerto and tone poems. Conductor Leif Segerstam has been acclaimed for his many recordings with numerous orchestras, and was awarded the annual Finnish State Prize for Music in 2004 and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. His recordings for Naxos include a “skillfully and sweepingly paced” Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Classic FM on 8660152-54), his conducting of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck regarded as “a giant-killer” (Gramophone on 8660076-77). The Turku Philharmonic is a platinum record-making and award winning orchestra, and we are confident that the sheer quality of this new series will guarantee wide interest in the relatively neglected works of Finland’s greatest and most influential composer.

“The lesser pieces here are all attractive...Segerstam has become one of the very finest Sibelius conductors, and his Turku orchestra rightly plays as if these were all major works, making this highly recommendable.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2015 *****

“Segerstam directs all this material with unfailing perception and secures some commendably watchful playing from his excellent Turku band. Sound, too, is undistractingly truthful, full-bodied and atmospheric, and there are useful notes by Dominic Wells. Roll on the next instalment!” Gramophone Magazine, September 2015

“these Sibelius miniatures create a dramatic atmosphere.” The Telegraph, 28th June 2015 ****

Naxos Leif Segerstam Sibelius Orchestral Works - 8573300

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Sibelius: Kuolema & King Kristian II

Sibelius: Kuolema & King Kristian II

Orchestral Works, Vol. 1


Sibelius:

Kuolema, Op. 44

King Kristian II, incidental music, Op. 27

Overture in A minor, JS144

2 Songs from Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night', Op. 60


Pia Pajala (soprano) & Waltteri Torikka (baritone)

Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam

Jean Sibelius was the most significant figure in the formation of Finland’s musical identity. Beyond the famous symphonies and tone poems he was prolific in other genres, including music for the theatre. King Christian II and Kuolema ensured Sibelius’s fame throughout Europe, the latter including the haunting melody (track 2) which would later become the Valse triste. The Two Songs from Twelfth Night contrast the spectre of death with more comical moods, an effect also to be heard in one of Sibelius’s least performed orchestral works, the Overture in A minor. This is the first of a six volume set of orchestral works by Jean Sibelius which sets out to explore his prolific output beyond the core oeuvre of the symphonies and violin concerto. We are delighted to have conductor Leif Segerstam at the helm of this project. Acclaimed for his many recordings with numerous orchestras, Segerstam was awarded the annual Finnish State Prize for Music in 2004, and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. With the platinum recordmaking and award winning Turku Philharmonic as its superbly firm bedrock, this new recording of Sibelius also presents baritone Waltteri Torikka, one of the most promising new talents in the next generation of opera singers from Finland and named Young Musician of the Year 2014 by the Finnish Pro Musica Foundation. Soprano Pia Pajala is a versatile performer known for her wide vocal range, powerful expression and strong interpretations of Sibelius and Finnish classical music.

“Segerstam has his Turku Philharmonic playing with both idiomatic, long-focused energy and poignant understatement; he first movement of the music for Järnefelt’s play Kuolema, later published separately as the Valse Triste, has rarely waltzed as sadly or as profoundly as this.” The Guardian, 28th May 2015 ****

“Torikka has an intense presence that brings vivid realism to Sibelius’s settings...Segerstam’s conducting of the Turku Philharmonic in the incidental music to Adolf Paul’s historical play King Christian II possesses a strength of sinew and a frisson of texture that reveal the sincerity and sensitivity of Sibelius’s response to these works of the theatre, with many a pointer to the substance and significance of the seven symphonies.” The Telegraph, 7th June 2015 ****

“Sibelius’s theatre music is more than a sideline of his genius. Some of his most enchanting moments are small movements devised for plays, and the complete incidental music sets offered here (alongside two Twelfth Night songs and a workaday Overture in A minor) are touched with magic.” Sunday Times, 28th June 2015

“Segerstam directs with his customary big heart and acute sensitivity for texture and mood.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2015

Naxos Leif Segerstam Sibelius Orchestral Works - 8573299

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Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Recorded live at the Savonlinna Opera Festival 1989


Franz Grundheber (The Dutchman), Hildegard Behrens (Senta), Matti Salminen (Daland), Raimo Sirkiä (Erik), Anita Välkki (Mary) & Jorma Silvasti (Steersman)

Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Leif Segerstam (conductor) & Ilkka Bäckman (director)

Designer JUHANI PIRSKANEN

Directed for video by AARNO CRONVALL

Ilkka Bäckman's acclaimed production takes place outdoors in the huge courtyard of Finland's 500-year-old Olavinlinna Castle – a majestic and impressive setting, which gives the production an atmosphere and realism. Hildegard Behrens, at the height of her career, is the tragic Senta, whose destiny is to redeem the Dutchman from his fate. The German bass-baritone, Franz Grundheber, sings the title role, and Finland's own Matti Salminen is the Norwegian sea captain, Daland.

SUBTITLED IN ENGLISH, FRENCH, GERMAN, SPANISH

DOLBY DIGITAL 2.0 STEREO 139 MINS

REGIONS 2-6

NTSC 4:3

COLOUR

DVD-9

“[Grundheber's] voice is ideally strong and suitably declamatory, if a little dry-toned from time to time. His acting and vocal characterisation are first class as is the Daland of native Finn, Matti Salminen...At the height of her career Hildegard Behrens is an outstanding singing actress as Senta...The setting and the vibrant singing of the chorus add to Leif Segerstam’s grasp of both the drama and lyricism of Wagner’s music.” MusicWeb International, 12th November 2013

DVD Video

Region: 2-6

Format: NTSC

Warner Classics - 2564647608

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Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7

Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7

The work is based on the legend of Kullervo in the epic Kalevala, which tells the mythic history of the ancient Finns.The huge success of the 1892 première in Helsinki, with Sibelius conducting the Helsinki Philharmonic, turned out to be the big breakthrough of the great Finnish composer's career - a true national hero.


“For epic grandeur and excitement Rasilainen remains first choice. But Segerstam's more poetic, even reflective reading is a compelling alternative.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 ****

“As a fine Wagner conductor Leif Segerstam knows something about pacing and maintaining a strong rhythmic profile over the longest spans of musical narrative, and for all the composer's vaunted debt to Bruckner in the instrumental movements, a grander, operatic sweep seems more germane to this always intriguing, sui generis hybrid of symphonic poem, symphony and cantata. Segerstam's second cycle of the numbered symphonies has at points such as the Seventh come a cropper with such largesse of gesture and tempo, but like Segerstam's first recording (Chandos – now available as a download only), is refreshingly straightforward with sound and well chosen tempi. Perhaps partly due to a superbly contoured recording, but also the more keenly expressive responses of the Helsinki orchestra, especially its woodwind, the many transitions in the work seem to count for more, and in 'Kullervo's Youth' achieve a Mussorgskian abruptness and intensity.
That first recording was also graced by Soile Isokoski in the part of Kullervo's raped sister, but here she surpasses herself in creating a selfcontained scena for her third-movement lament, vibrant and enticing before turning bitterly eloquent over her shame. Tommi Hakala and the YL Choir bring a complementary, sappy youthfulness.
If the finale rather goes off the boil, the composer must take some of the blame; Isokoski too, for stealing the show with a contribution to this over-recorded work which deserves to win currency outside connoisseurs of early Sibelius.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Leif Segerstam knows something about pacing and maintaining a strong rhythmic profile over the longest spans of musical narrative… …Soile Isokoski in the part of Kullervo's raped sister… surpasses herself - and, I think, anyone else I've heard - in creating a self-contained scena for her third-movement lament, vibrant and enticing before turning bitterly eloquent over her shame.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008

“Leif Segerstam's performance joins the pantheon of outstanding Kullervo recordings. As one would expect from this quirkily fascinating conductor-composer, his reading takes a different line from the conventional approach to this strange hybrid work...Rather than adopting a monolithic "symphonic" approach, Segerstam emphasises the inherent drama and the protean nature of the whole work. The theatricality is not confined to the incestuous central duet between the hero Kullervo and his sister, sung here with thrilling operatic intensity by Soile Isokoski and Tommi Hakala, but spreads into the outer orchestral movements, too. If conductors such as Osmo Vänskä show Kullervo to be the starting point for the later, purely symphonic journey Sibelius undertook, the Segerstam reveals possibilities in the work that were never followed up, and which would have taken the composer into a different world altogether.” The Guardian, 23rd May 2008 ****

“This latest wholly Finnish production is up there with the best. It reminds us what an audacious work this five-movement quasi-symphony was for its 27-year-old composer, with its pounding rhythms, powerful choral writing and broad range of atmospheres. Leif Segerstam commands these elements with true authority, and the Helsinki Philharmonic responds with playing, by turns elemental and delicate. Soile Isokoski, a soprano who in her vocal edge and intuitive sense of communication can bring to mind Elisabeth Söderström, is a dramatically perceptive foil to Tommi Hakala's appropriately brazen but vocally polished Kullervo.” The Telegraph, 7th June 2008

Super Audio CD

Format:

Hybrid Multi-channel

Ondine - ODE11225

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Karl-Birger Blomdahl - The Three Symphonies

Karl-Birger Blomdahl - The Three Symphonies


Blomdahl:

Symphony No. 1

Symphony No. 2

Symphony No. 3, Facetter


BIS - BISCD611

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Pettersson - Symphonies Nos. 7 & 11

Pettersson - Symphonies Nos. 7 & 11


Pettersson:

Symphony No. 7

Symphony No. 11


BIS - BISCD580

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