Saturday, January 11, 2014

A chat with Leif Segerstam, Part II

Well, this is quite embarrassing. At least Comission and Ruzicka (intentionally or not) also missed it.

Last evening the Turku Philharmonic gave a guest concert in Helsinki, led by their new music director, Leif Segerstam. Although I have spoken before with Segerstam regarding his interpretation of the conclusion to the Symphony No. 15, I did not have the score with me at the time, so Segerstam had to go by memory. On this occasion, I made sure to bring my score to the concert and have a chat with the maestro at intermission. 

A brief refresher for those of you who are just joining us: for the final two chords of the Symphony No. 15, both Comissiona and Ruzicka cut off the winds and strings at the same time before the final strings-only chord, while Segerstam cuts off the winds only, allowing the strings to be heard alone before the transition to the final chord. You can read more about it here.

After the first half of the concert I found the maestro seated backstage. He remembered me from our previous conversation. When I showed him the score and asked him why he conducted the last measure the way that he did, he looked at the score for what must have been a fraction of a second, raised his voice, and said something to the effect of (I cannot remember exactly):

"...because that is what is in the score!"

I was confused. I thought Segerstam took some intepretive license here. 

"I don't make changes, I follow the score!"

"It is obvious!"

It is? What have I missed?

"There is a fermata over the strings only, but not over the winds and brass!"


The answer was right under my nose, always has been, and I missed it, and have been scratching my head for nothing. 

I was then scolded for asking "stupid questions."

He then put his hand on my shoulder and said he was joking. 

I thanked the maestro, and sheepishly left backstage. The fermata is over the strings only! That is why you hear strings only briefly before the final chord. Duh!!!

On the bus ride home I listened to final measures of the symphony, both the Segerstam and Comissiona versions, more times than I can remember. 

Pettersson knew exactly what he was doing here.

So did Segerstam.

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