This will be my 24th successive week of chamber music in summertime Kuhmo. I have looked forward to this week in the darkest depths of winter, and felt a longing for summer and music in my bones. It’s difficult NOT to come here, to Kuhmo. Why voluntarily deny myself an annual feast of the world’s most beautiful music? Of the many addictions I have, this is one of the least discreditable.
That which sounds from these
so cleverly crafted from cherry,
by powerful hands caressed, is love
Some years I have been in the habit of jotting down sentences while listening to the music. These lines occurred to me as I listened to the Adagio of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C minor:
My child, slumber sweetly
in the shade
of mighty oak. There is
nothing, no evil,
no plague, no hatred, no
danger in this shaft of light
in the shade of the oak.
Your breathing is light,
effortless and eternal. Fear
nothing, have no bad
dreams, slumber sweetly.
Every summer a few friends and I have rented a house in the centre of town for a week. It’s become our second home. We have got to know the people who live there. The day begins at the local baker’s, and for breakfast we discuss the previous night’s performances before pedaling off to hour of church concert we are once again fired with music and joie de vivre. We head for the market to pick up some smoked vendace, then home via the wine store for lunch. A short siesta and we’re rearing for the afternoon and evening concerts again. Can life get any better than this?
The professional and artistic standard of the Kuhmo musician is astoundingly high, the best in the world. Like the pure joy that wells forth from their playing! The string quartets, from the Borodin to Meta4, are absolutely the tops. For me, as a young man, Ravel’s F major quartet opened the gates to the sanctum of chamber music. In Kuhmo, I can hear it in the crystalline interpretation of Meta4.
I find myself repeatedly having to revise many of my preconceived ideas and deep-rooted beliefs. Until I heard Paavali Jumppanen, I had considered Liszt a somewhat superficial, noisy off. How wrong I was!
And not until I heard the Borodin Quaret’s Shostakovich (played from the original music) was the true elegance of his texture revealed to me. And Pekka Kuusisto plays Sibelius just as if the music in being born right now, this very moment. The clarity of Soile Isokoski’s voice in with me as I fall asleep and I can hear it in my head whenever I want.
And the greatest moments? There have been so many that it would seem pointless to mention any particular concert. Each summer has been different; sometimes the programme is weighted towards the Baroque, sometimes the Viennese Classicists, sometimes contemporary music. The summer of the eclipse has stuck in my mind: we climbed up onto the roof of the house to wait. All of sudden everything went dark and the whole world fell silent, like an omen of the end of the world. The poetry evenings in the past few years have also tied in naturally with the music.
One of the nicest things about Kuhmo is that people don’t come here to be seen; it’s not a fashion show. They come because they love chamber music; they come for quiet reflection, to concentrate, to meet their beloved musicians, composers and summer friends. It is with a touch of sadness that we go our own ways at the end of the week: bye, hope to see you again next summer! Sure! Fate, wallet and health permitting!