Finnish National Romantics: Sibelius and Madetoja in Concert
Lecture and Concert
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- Folke Gräsbeck, piano
- Päivikki Nykter, violin
- Katri Ervamaa, cello
Pre-concert Lecture at 7pm
Concert at 8pm
Co-sponsored by University of Michigan’s Residential College and the Scandinavian Program, the program features Finnish national romantic chamber music by two Finnish composers, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) and Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947). Sibelius, well-known for his symphonies and tone-poems, also wrote a considerable amount of chamber music, most of it unpublished. The Third Piano Trio, entitled “Hafträsk” is a youthful work, composed in when Sibelius was only 20, and before the start of his formal composition studies. Leevi Madetoja, a young composer of considerable talent, wrote his Piano Trio op.1 when first entering his composition studies with Sibelius: the story goes that S. said to M.: “I think you should write a Piano Trio”, and then promptly left to travel abroad for the next several months.
Folke Gräsbeck is a Finnish classical pianist. He was born to a musical family: his father was the composer Gottfrid Gräsbeck (1927–2010). Folke began to play the piano at the age of two, under the guidance of his mother La Vonne Gräsbeck, and continued his studies at the Turku Conservatory at the age of five.
Gräsbeck made his solo orchestral debut with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 12, playing the 1st movement of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 12, and with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra at the age of 14, playing the Weber Konzertstück. By the age of 17, Gräsbeck had won two national piano competitions in Finland, playing the Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4 and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.1.
After winning the national competitions, Gräsbeck's right hand was injured in 1974. He would not start performing on a regular basis again until in 1981, when he underwent a successful surgery on the hand.
The leading authority on Sibelius’ piano works, Gräsbeck has performed more than 200 of Sibelius’s c. 550 compositions, and has given the world première performances of 82 of them. He was the first pianist to give a recital at the new Sibelius Hall in Lahti (14th March 2000), playing a program exclusively devoted to Sibelius piano music premières. In 1996 he was awarded the medal of Sibelius’s Birthplace in Hämeenlinna. In addition to Sibelius’ music, he has performed some thirty piano concertos and given performances as a recitalist, chamber player and Lied accompanist in the USA, Egypt, Israel, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mexico as well as in many European countries. He has made numerous recordings for BIS, many of which are included in the company’s ongoing complete recorded Sibelius edition.
Violinist Päivikki Nykter, a native of Finland, is a graduate of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. She has held positions in many orchestras including the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Ms.Nykter was a founding member of the Finnish contemporary ensemble AVANTI! and has maintained her passion for new music, premiering numerous works written for her. She has worked with such notable composers as Brian Ferneyhough, Roger Reynolds, Will Ogdon, Rand Steiger, Yoji Yuasa, Chaya Czernowin, Kaija Saariaho, Jonathan Harvey and David Burge. Ms. Nykter has appeared as a guest artist in several festivals, including Giacinto Scelsi Festival in New York City, Darmstadt New Music Festival in Germany, and International Mountain View Festival of Chamber Music and Song in Calgary, Canada. She is an artistic director of a Chamber Music Concert Series in Lappeenranta, Finland. Ms. Nykter served as an Artist-in-Residence at the University of California San Diego Music Department from 1994 to 2006. She is now a freelance violinist maintaining a busy concert schedule. Ms. Nykter has recorded the Complete Violin Duos by Béla Bartók with violinist János Négyesy on Neuma records. The same duo has also recorded seven pieces written and dedicated to them on Acourant records. She has also recorded on CRI, Old King Cole and mode labels. Ms. Nykter is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, a way of becoming more aware of balance, posture and movements in everyday activities. The Technique also helps to maximize poise and ease for musicians, actors, dancers and other performing artists.
Finnish-born, internationally recognized cellist Katri Ervamaa, DMA, is a versatile performer, who specializes in chamber music, new music and creative improvisation. She has performed and given master classes throughout North America, Europe and Taiwan. Her festival appearances include the Orlando, Kuhmo, Bowdoin, Lyckå and Norrtäjle Chamber Music Festivals (with the Finnish Owla String Quartet) as well as the Denison University Tutti! New Music Festival, Poison City Music Festival and Finnfest, among others. She has also performed at Ann Arbor’s Edgefest with Lars Hollmer’s Global Home Project, Guy Kluscevic, Mark Kirschenmann, E3Q, Andrew Bishop and Ed Sarath. She studied cello with Erling Blöndal Bengtsson at the University of Michigan, Marc Johnson at the Northern Illinois University, Kazimierz Mikhalik in Poland and Lauri Laitinen at the Oulu Conservatory in Finland. She also studied chamber music with Andrew Jennings and the members of the Vermeer, Alban Berg, Amadeus and Borodin String Quartets, and frequently at the Britten-Pears School in England.
Katri is a founding member and past president of Brave New Works new music ensemble (bravenewworks.org). She is also a member of the Muse string trio and E3Q, an improvisation-based genre-defying trio with her husband Mark Kirschenmann and percussionist Michael Gould. She has recorded with Andrew Bishop’s Hank Williams Project and Ed Sarath’s Timescape, among others, and appears on Envoy Recordings, Block M Records, and AMP Records labels. A champion of new classical music, Katri has premiered numerous chamber music and solo cello works and worked with such composers as William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Marilyn Shrude, Michael Daugherty, Gabriela Lena Frank, Robert Morris, Chen Yi and Forrest Pierce.
In addition to her lively performance career, Katri is on faculty at the University of Michigan’s Residential College, where she is the head of the music program and teaches chamber music. She has also been on the cello faculty at the Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green State Universities. Most recently, she has given master classes and participated in residencies at Cornell and Oklahoma State Universities, University of Puget Sound and the Oulu Conservatory in Finland. Katri is a mother of three and lives in Ann Arbor, MI with her family.