The National Ecclesiastical Board of Finland has commissioned a major work from composer Olli Kortekangas to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and the centenary year of Finnish independence. The VIA oratorio for five solo voices, a double choir, organ and orchestra will be performed at Naantali Music Festival next summer, with leading artists already engaged for the premiere at Naantali Church on 7 June 2017. The soloists will be Suvi Väyrynen (soprano), Melis Jaatinen (mezzo-soprano), Tuomas Katajala (tenor), Ville Rusanen (baritone) and Nicholas Söderlund (bass). The choirs will be the EMO Ensemble and the Key Ensemble, with Kari Vuola at the organ, and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä.
VIA – Oratorio for five solo voices, double choir, organ and orchestra
My cantata De virtute in virtutem – Songs of the Pilgrim was premiered at the opening concert of Naantali Music Festival in 2011. A joint commission of the Town Council and Parish of Naantali, this work was later performed at the Parainen Organ Festival and at the Organ Night and Aria Festival in Espoo, and was also broadcast by radio.
I consider it a great honour to have an opportunity to continue this series of grand works. A few years ago I was commissioned by the National Ecclesiastical Board of Finland to compose a full-concert work to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, with Naantali Music Festival agreeing to produce the premiere performance. Due for completion in early autumn 2016, the work will be called VIA and subtitled “oratorio for five solo voices, double choir, organ and orchestra”.
The subject matter and libretto for the VIA oratorio will mainly focus on an extended Eastertide from Good Friday to Pentecost. In other words, it will begin at the point where the Passions normally end. The work will nevertheless also allude to other episodes in the ecclesiastical calendar, which comprises an entirety of events that are interconnected in terms of both narrative and content.
A theme of expectation and searching strongly pervades the work, perhaps because I think I am more the kind of person who asks good questions than who has ready answers. Alongside the merrymaking of Christmas and the grand drama of Easter Week, I feel that Pentecost and the events leading up to it are a more mysterious passage in the ecclesiastical calendar. Even so, the message of the work is not supposed to remain at the level of personal reflection. Pentecost also celebrates of the birth of the Church, and of all occasions it is best suited to collective action and experience.
The libretto of the VIA oratorio is a polyphonic and multilingual collage from biblical, traditional hymnodic and modern lyrical sources. The poets in question are Meena Alexander, Eeva-Liisa Manner, Pia Perkiö and Kirsti Simonsuuri. As in the Bach passions, chorale plays a key role in the work. The interludes composed for organ form a separate module within the work.
Olli Kortekangas (June 2016)