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Outi Tarkiainen

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Midnight Sun Variations (2019)
Publisher
Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen
Category
Orchestra
Year Composed
2019
Duration
11 Minutes
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Programme Note
Outi Tarkiainen Midnight Sun Variations (2019)
“It is not our fault if, in your country, dream and reality are so closely bound together that one cannot well distinguish one from the other.” – Robert Crottet on the land of the Lappish Skolts (Fôrets de la lune, 1949)

Midnight Sun Variations for orchestra is about the light in the arctic summer night, when the northern sky above the Arctic Circle reflects a rich spectrum of infinitely-nuanced hues that, as autumn draws near, are once again veiled in darkness; when Europe’s biggest and most unpolluted wildernesses, the tundra and dense coniferous forests mystified by Jean Sibelius in his last large-scale work, Tapiola (1926), are bathed in countless shades of light.

The work begins with a sparkling ray of sunshine: the orchestra radiates and rises, playfully traces its round and goes back to the beginning again. Solitary wind solos soar above the orchestra, softly proclaiming the peace of the summer night to answering sighs from a horn. A new beginning finally emerges in the strings: a chord beating with rugged primitive force that fills the whole space with its warmth. This sets off a pulse of constantly remixing chords that ultimately fires the whole orchestra into action, until the strings break away, ascend to the heights and impart maybe the most important message of all.

My first child was born on just such a night, as the summer’s last warm day gave way to a dawn shrouded in autumnal mist, in a flash wiping away a whole season. Midnight Sun Variations is also about the opening of a woman’s body to accommodate a new life, about giving birth, when the woman and the child within her part company, restoring her former self as the light fades into autumn. The work was commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic and The National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada and is dedicated to John Storgårds.

Outi Tarkiainen
Translated in English by Susan Sinisalo


Midnight Sun Variations and Songs of the Ice can be performed as a pair, in either order, or individually.



Score preview


Performances
Date
Title
  • 21 FEB 2020
    Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, US
    Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    John Storgårds, conductor

    Other Dates:
    22,23 February - Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, US
  • 03 APR 2020
    Powell Hall, St. Louis, US
    St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
    John Storgårds, conductor

    Other Dates:
    4,5 April - Powell Hall, St. Louis, US

Reviews
★★★★☆ The classical canon isn’t replete with works about childbirth, probably for obvious reasons. So a welcome dawn shone on Outi Tarkiainen’s Midnight Sun Variations, inspired by the birth of the composer’s son. The piece is about light too: Tarkiainen lives in a remote village in Finnish Lapland and she was also inspired by the Arctic night when she went into labour, the last of the bright summer days fading to an autumn mist. It’s very beautiful, chains of shimmering percussion setting off a kind of twinkling relay contest, before bigger, thicker lines are drawn by the strings, pulsing almost like a Steve Reich soundscape. The expressive energy of the piece hides its intricate effects: Tarkiainen doesn’t get bogged down by details and her voice comes through strongly.
Neil Fisher, The Times,05/08/2019
★★★★★ Her hugely ambitious score teems with sparkling percussion, while woodwind and strings scurry up and down extended scales, cascades of notes falling over one another as she paints in music the infinitely varying hues of the Arctic summer sky. Bird calls and snatches of melody emerge. All is calm and eerily beautiful on this tonal seascape but underneath there is a relentless forward motion, driving us towards the sun’s zenith, heralded by glissandi trombones and culminating in a shattering climax. Then, a big surprise. As the sun’s power begins to fade and the autumnal shades appear, a startlingly conventional passage on divided strings makes an appearance, almost as if Grieg had picked up the score and quickly added his thoughts before the music finally drifts away into darkness. This fine and richly satisfying piece made a perfect partner to the opening item, Rachmaninov’s The Isle of the Dead, which, like Midnight Sun Variations, is in a single, restless movement that surges ever onward towards inevitable darkness.
Stephen Pritchard, Bachtrack,05/08/2019
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