Then

The day of the concert brought us face to face with cold, hard facts. The ensemble arrived for the dress rehearsal in the afternoon. Despite our detailed agreement, the hall had again been set for an amplified rock concert that night, and the technical staff was not allowed to alter things according to our plans. We had to perform on the pre-set stage, we could not move the side curtains, and the screen was not placed behind the stage. The only technical detail that was arranged according to the agreement was the voice amplification for the narrator.

Instead of being able to alter the acoustics and make the hall as reverberant and projective as possible, we were forced to perform in dry theater-like conditions. The acoustically challenging ensemble of The Soldier's Tale as well as Salonen's Catch and Release were performed in full emergency mode, the players simply concentrating on the music and trying to forget the acoustic conditions around them.

 

Afterwards

The process organizing of the Stravinsky concert immediately humbled me. There were no halls available at the Academy on the chosen concert day. Therefore I had to settle on the first possibly suitable venue that was available. The Vaunusali Hall appeared to be vacant for the hours of the concert, but was otherwise extremely tightly booked, limiting our rehearsal opportunities. Moreover, the rent of the hall is rather expensive, especially compared with the Sibelius Academy venues, which would have been free for doctoral students.  However, in order to keep the whole project running, I had to book the venue and take the risk of not getting extra funding.

An interesting adversity cropped up at the start of the rehearsals: The massive volcanic eruption in Iceland with its ash cloud spreading over Europe halted most of the airline traffic. At the time of our first rehearsal our conductor was stuck in Malaysia and our clarinet player in Paris. I spent an entire weekend booking a standin conductor and clarinetist for only one prima vista rehearsal, with the vague option of participating in the performance if the missing people would not make it themselves. Ultimately they did.

The acoustic aspect of the concert was close to catastrophic. According to my quick preliminary studies of its acoustic potential, the hall would have been more-or-less acceptable if we had been allowed to carry out the planned adjustments. That did not happen. Therefore my fundamental concept of acoustically optimizing the ensemble sound was not realized. 

However, the unfortunate acoustic circumstances demonstrated the fundamental characteristics of The Soldier's Tale ensemble. It is a movable theater band and, as an integral part of the stage drama, is designed to work under any circumstances. Incidental good acoustics were just an additional luxury, which Stravinsky most probably did not anticipate while planning the inaugural tour of The Soldier's Tale.  However, despite the original minimal inner resonance characteristics of the two pieces that share the same lineup, my plan was to demonstrate how even this challenging ensemble could gain from optimizing the acoustic conditions around it.  All in all, due to circumstances beyond my control and partly through sheer misfortune, the acoustic aspect of my first doctoral concert failed. Jukka Isopuro's critics and the audience's impressions were in line with this conclusion. Nonetheless, musically the performance went according to our plans.

The final boost of anger-induced adrenaline comes after conductor Lintu paid a visit to the audience side, "Well - to tell you the truth the ensemble sound is nonexistent. Now we just do it!"

 

It really feels like being x-rayed throughout the performance. We just have to keep the skeleton together and moving.