Our own mini festival in Berlin
Finnish Baroque Orchestra (FiBO) had long harboured plans of an own small festival in Berlin, and now it becomes reality – with no less than four other orchestras! The Nordic Baroque Scene (NBS) co-operation network was created on the initiative of FiBO, and its four member orchestras Barokkanerne from Norway, Concerto Copenhagen from Denmark, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble from Sweden and FiBO together with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra perform at a special concert on a summer’s evening in Berlin on July 1st.
The concert the evening before is the starting point of the festival and features the same orchestras on the stage of the Philharmonie.
Laura Kajander, Executive Manager and violist of the Finnish Baroque Orchestra (FiBO) together with Andrea Kerner, CEO of conc.arts berlin and promoter of the Nordic Lights Festival, answered some questions about the festival.
Where did the idea to arrange a small own festival in precisely Berlin originate?
In Berlin, FiBO has good partners not only in an artistic sense but also among concept developers and managers. Some years ago, we thought that it would be great to be able to arrange a festival with the theme “The many faces of FiBO”, presenting the versatile offerings of the orchestra for our European partners and the Berlin audience during a compact weekend. Often ideas go through many changes before reaching the goal, and this time was no exception. Among other things, Covid postponed the plans, but on the other hand the partnership between the Finnish Baroque Orchestra and the Nordic Baroque orchestras had grown deeper and we therefore decided to arrange a mini festival showcasing the Nordic know-how in a broader way.
What role does transnationality play in art making?
Art can be born from very different impulses. These impulses can be intimate, relate to human interaction or to nature, arise from visual sources, from literature or from anything else. International co-operation brings different nuances to the table, and makes it possible to forge new friendships or conceive new artistic ideas. During different times, some artists have also spoken out on public affairs. For myself, international development is a way to take a stand for multicultural values, co-operation, openminded curiosity, development and a common Europe – or why not cosmopolitanism. Musicians speaking different languages communicate their thoughts and feelings through their languages and their styles of playing. All these colours are infinitely fascinating.
Other Nordic baroque orchestras are also part of the festival. How are they different from for instance Central European Baroque orchestras, ie. will the festival audience be able to notice that it’s specifically a Nordic orchestra performing?
Every ensemble – Baroque ensembles are no different – create their own work culture and sound, which can change from production to production depending on the repertoire and the impulses from the leader or the soloist. It’s difficult to generalise a Nordic sound culture, but some points of view come to mind: starting with the fact that neither Finland nor Norway have really had any Baroque composers of their own, and the Baroque musicians are children of today’s world for which Baroque music has become important. The lack of historical roots create a foundation for a broad-mindedness when it comes to styles and performance practice, and these ensembles all share a certain curiosity, a willingness to experiment and a broad stylistic adaptability, as well as a rough timbre à la folk music when called for. In my view, the Danes and the Swedes have a more elegant style, as far as there is any point at all in generalising. Likewise, the images of Italian, German, French or English orchestras are all different. Very broadly speaking, I would say that the Nordic orchestras switch very nimbly between different styles and eras, whereas the Central European orchestras have the opportunity to focus on a more specialised repertoire, growing from the roots of each country.
In Berlin, FiBO (and musicians from other Nordic Baroque orchestras) perform also with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in the Philharmonie in Berlin. How do you feel about performing in the famous concert hall for the first time?
Lately, FiBO has also performed in other large European halls, so it’s very nice to go to the Philharmonie as well. I’m especially excited about the joint orchestra, in which many musicians from FiBO will surely get lots of new friend as well as artistic impulses. We have only two days to find a common way of playing. Even if every single stress doesn’t sound exactly the same, I’m certain that the cheerful togetherness radiates to the audience in the hall as well as through the radio to a broader audience.
Are there already other projects in the pipe line, either by means of transnational co-operation or resulting from it?
Currently, FiBO’s concert series European Top Choirs brings a selection of diverse choirs with very different repertoires to Helsinki twice a year. Many of the programs continue on tour throughout Europe. This year, FiBO performs in addition to the choir series also at four festivals and in the networking project of five orchestras, leading to performances of a jointly agreed upon program with joint performances in different countries. As a third international project, it’s worth mentioning the international singing competition Aria Borealis, which is arranged as a joint Nordic project. We are planning on arranging it in Finland next during Spring 2025. And there are also pending things, some of which monumental. Not everything can be disclosed yet...
There is a lot of cultural events in Berlin. For whom could you suggest the Nordic Lights Festival? What is the most interesting thing in the festival for people living in Berlin?
Berlin may have a rich orchestral scene, but it thins out when it comes to original sound and baroque. That's why the festival is a wonderful opportunity for fans and friends of early music! Moreover, the repertoire of our festival orchestras is tremendously varied - there is not only baroque music, but also traditional northern European music and new music, all arranged for baroque orchestras. This mixture is already special, and concertgoers in Berlin can look forward to it. The location of the festival, the Säälchen on the Holzmarkt, is also special and will hopefully encourage people to attend who don't normally attend classical concerts all the time. The atmosphere there is very informal and intimate, situated directly on the Spree - simply fantastic.
Do you notice differences when listening to the nordic baroque orchestras compared to the orchestras from the Central Europe? If yes, what are the differences?
To be honest, I have not yet heard all the orchestras performing live at the Nordic Lights Festival, only FiBO and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. That's another reason why I'm so much looking forward to the festival: because I myself am curious to find out whether there are actually audible differences. However, I notice that the Northern European baroque orchestras are very creative and courageous when it comes to developing alternative concert-formats, programmes and educational activities. When I read what they are doing in the nordic countries, it makes me want to pack my bags immediately and come