Overtone Cathedral

May 25. 2014

Rehearsal Hall Paavo at Helsinki Music Centre



Harri Ahmas (b.1957): Autumn Divertimento (vcl, db and harp) - world premiere





Modest Mussorgsky (1839 – 1881) / arr. Ilkka Pälli (b.1960):

Pictures at an Exhibition (Картинки с Выставки) (6 vcl, 4 db)


1. Gnomus (The Gnome)


2.Il vecchio castello (The Old Castle)


3. Les Tuileries, Dispute d'enfants après jeux  (Dispute between Children at Play in Tuileries' park)

4.  Bydło (A Polish oxcart)


5. Балет невылупившихся птенцов" [Balet nevylupivshikhsya ptentsov]

(Ballet of the unhatched chicks)

6. Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle (Two Jews: Rich and Poor)


7. Limoges, le marché (The market at Limoges)

8.  Catacombæ, Sepulcrum romanum  (Catacombs, Roman sepulcher)  and

Con mortuis in lingua mortua (With the Dead in a Dead Language)

9.  Избушка на курьих ножках (Баба-Яга) [Izbushka na kuryikh nozhkakh (Baba-Yagá)]      

(Baba Jaga's hut)

10. Богатырские ворота (В стольном городе во Киеве) [Bogatyrskiye vorota (V stolnom gorode Kiyeve)]  (The Bogatyr Gates in the Capital Kiev)


The pictures are entitled in their original languages; Russian, Latin, Italian, French. Polish and Yiddish



Sound theme

Already when I started planning this concert series as a succession of demonstrations of chamber ensemble sound and overtone resonance, I decided to begin from the ultimate challenge of Stravinsky's Soldier ensemble and end it with the overtone feast of Ilkka Pälli's version of Mussorgsky's Pictures. These two pieces framed the span for the series of five different ensemble sound ideas. 

In the year 2000, we performed and recorded the Mussorgsky with the Sinfonia Lahti Chamber Ensemble. Since then it has, to my knowledge, been performed by ensembles of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. In my experience there are only a few ensembles that could provide such a good demonstration of the consonant overtone resonance. The organic sound symbiosis between cellos and double basses draws the musicians to nurture and maximize the harmonic resonance in both conscious as well as unconscious ways.  The ensemble also demands suitably matching acoustics around it in order to generate the optimal sound, which naturally was the other main target of the project.

In order to balance the complete concert program the idea of a trio of cello, double bass and harp came again into my mind. So I reminded composer Harri Ahmas of his original preliminary plans of a work for this combination. Finished in December 2013, the new composition provided Mussorgsky/Pälli Pictures with a suitable counterbalance in terms of its sound as well as its musical world:  a delightfully subtle study of the interaction between the members of this unusual combination of instruments.