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  • Writer's pictureHelsingin Kamariorkesteri

Cellofest: La Bella Italia

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Concert at St. John's Church on January 31st 2023. Leonardo Chiodo, cello |

Nil Venditti, conductor. Buy tickets here.

The Helsinki Chamber Orchestra will perform an all Italian program for the 2023 edition of the Cellofest festival, a high point of the renowned cello tradition Finland has crafted over the years. This concert, supported by the Italian Cultural Institute of Helsinki, will be the occasion for the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra to have its very first outside guest conductor, 28 years old Nil Venditti, who has established a name for herself around the world as one of the most sought after young conductors. Praised for her energy and cheerful energy, she will be joined in the concert by cellist Leonardo Chiodo, in a program consisting of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, one of the orchestra’s signature pieces, Schumann’s Cello Concerto, and Rossini’s Sonata for Strings. The concert will take place on 31.1.2023 at Johannes Kirkko.


  • Gioachino Rossini: String Sonata No. 1

  • Robert Schumann: Cello Concerto (arr. for string orchestra)

  • Intermission (15')

  • Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence


Gioachino Rossini: String Sonata No. 1

In 1803, when he was only 11, Gioacchino Rossini made the acquaintance of the wealthy Malerbi family in Lugo. He had access to their extensive music library and received singing lessons from Canon Giuseppe Malerbi. Under Malerbi's guidance, Rossini also developed the foundations of his distinctive style of composition. In addition to singing, he played the harpsichord and was able to decipher and interpret much of the music of his time, particularly the works of Mozart and Haydn, which would leave a lasting impression on his style.

Rossini composed the six sonatas, which are scored for two violins, cello, and double bass, for landowner and merchant Agostino Triossi in the summer of 1804. It is worth noting that the unusual absence of violas in the score was not a conscious decision by Rossini, but rather was determined by the lack of viola players among his friends, who were typically the intended performers of his works. The six sonatas display a remarkable mastery of form and tonal contrasts for a 12-year-old composer, as well as an innate sense of rhythm that combines wit with a rich lyricism. They also reveal his emerging opera buffa style, which he would perfect in his operatic masterpieces.

Later in life, Rossini liked to write ironic comments on his old autograph manuscripts. On these youthful sonatas, he wrote: "First violin, second violin, violoncello and contrabass parts for six terrible sonatas composed by me at the country house (near Ravenna) of my friend and patron Agostino Triossi, and this at a most youthful age, not having even received a lesson in thorough bass. They were all composed and copied in three days and performed in a doggish manner by Triossi, contrabass; Morini (his cousin), first violin; the latter's brother, violoncello; and the second violin by myself, who was not the least of the dogs in the group." Despite the apparent self-deprecation in this statement, the numerous corrections and new versions that he would publish over the years show the importance that Rossini placed on his first works. It is not surprising that he criticized the first performance of these sonatas, given their technical challenges. The virtuoso passages are played in turn by the first and second violins, and it is likely that Rossini, playing second violin, participated in this "duel" out of sheer bravado.

In 1826, five of the six sonatas (excluding Sonata No. 3) were published by Casa Ricordi in Milan as standard string quartets, and a transposition for wind instruments was made in 1828/1829. However, the sonatas were later lost and were assumed to have been destroyed. In 1942, the sonatas published by Ricordi were rediscovered, and in 1954, Rossini's original score was found at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Each sonata is in three movements and ranges in length from 11 to 17 minutes, with the first sonata lasting around 17 minutes itself, with a typical "fast-slow-fast" tempo pattern. However, three of the sonatas have a minor key for the second Andante movement. The sonatas also depart from traditional musical expectations by not formally developing their material in the way that other classical works do, and by magnifying the role of the cello with the addition of a double bass. Since the sonatas are scored for four string instruments, they are therefore sometimes referred to as sonate a quattro ("sonatas for four"). However, in this concert, the Sonata for Strings No. 1, the first piece in the performance, will be performed by a string orchestra rather than just four players, giving it the sound and presence of a small string section while still maintaining the intimate and chamber-like qualities of the work.

See the full score here: Sonata for Strings No. 1

Robert Schumann: Cello Concerto (arr. for string orchestra)

The Cello Concerto, written towards the end of Schumann's life, is considered one of his more enigmatic works due to its unusual structure, the lengthy exposition, and the transcendental quality of the opening as well as the intense lyricism of the second movement. The concerto is also notable for its departure from traditional concerto conventions, as indicated by the title "Konzertstück" (concert piece) that Schumann gave it on the autograph score. This is similar to Schumann's earlier piano concerto in the same key, which was also originally written as a concert piece.

Robert Schumann wrote his Cello Concerto in 1850 in Düsseldorf, where he had moved to become the music director of the city's orchestra. However, he was not a skilled conductor and struggled to concentrate on his duties, leading to a short tenure in the position. He completed the draft of the Cello Concerto on the day of his debut as conductor in Düsseldorf.

When he tried to get the Concerto published, the first two publishers he approached were not interested, despite Schumann pointing out that it was likely to sell well due to the shortage of cello concertos at the time. He made the same argument to a third publisher, Breitkopf & Härtel, but also claimed that the Concerto was "quite a 'cheerful' or 'jolly' piece." This was a stretch of the truth at best, but Breitkopf still decided to publish the Concerto. Even as Schumann began his descent into madness and eventual death in 1854, he was still correcting the proofs for the Concerto. It took a long time for Breitkopf to recoup its investment, as the Concerto was not premiered until 1860 and was not frequently performed until the end of the century.

To prevent the orchestra from overpowering the cello, Schumann wrote a solo part that mostly stays in the middle and upper registers of the instrument. Large sections of the Concerto, including the entire slow movement except for the last bar, could be played on a viola (which has strings tuned an octave higher than the cello). When the cello does need to use its lowest string, the orchestration is light or the cello is playing alone. The form of the Concerto lies somewhere between three movements played without pause and one continuous movement

In keeping with many of Schumann's other works, the Cello Concerto uses both fully realized and fragmentary thematic material introduced in the first movement, which is then quoted and developed throughout the work. This, along with the relatively short and linked movements, gives the concerto a strong sense of unity in both material and character. Despite its emotional range, the concerto is characterized by the development of themes and emotional arc, from its opening measures which alternate between deep contemplation and agitation to the brilliant and affirmative conclusion.

The first movement of the Cello Concerto begins with a short orchestral introduction followed by the presentation of the main theme by the soloist. This is followed by a brief tutti that leads into additional melodic material that is both new and related to the previous material. The movement is characterized by a sense of improvisation and fantasy, although the recapitulation follows the exposition fairly closely.

The second movement is brief but intensely melodic, with the soloist occasionally using double stops. It also features a descending fifth, a gesture that Schumann used throughout the piece as a tribute to his wife, Clara Schumann. The motive was also used in his first piano sonata for the same purpose.

Example of two "Clara Schumann Gestures" at the beginning of the second movement of Schumann's Cello Concerto

Example of a "Clara Schumann Gesture" in the first movement of Schumann's Piano Sonata No. 1

In this movement, the soloist has a duet with the principal cellist, a rare and unusual texture. Some have interpreted this as a conversation between Clara and the composer, while a more practical explanation is that Schumann expands the normal range of the solo cello by adding additional accompanying material, creating the impression of a larger and more fully realized solo instrument.

The third movement of the Cello Concerto is a lively rondo with a march-like main theme. At the end of the movement, there is an accompanied in-tempo cadenza, which was unusual in Schumann's time. This cadenza leads into the final coda, which features a change in mode to A major. In recent years, some cellists have chosen to include their own unaccompanied cadenzas, although there is no indication that Schumann intended for one to be included.

Schumann famously disliked applause between movements, so there are no breaks between any of the movements in the concerto. Schumann's skill in handling the transitions between the three movements is one of the concerto's most notable features. Despite its virtuosity, the writing for the soloist in the Cello Concerto generally avoids the kind of virtuosic display that was prominent in many concertos of the time, and Schumann himself declared that he could not write a concerto for virtuosos and that he "must try for something else." Instead, the concerto fully exploits the capabilities of the cello while avoiding the kind of flashy displays that were common in many concertos of the time.

See the full score here: Cello Concerto (original version for full symphony orchestra)

Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence

The String Sextet in D minor "Souvenir de Florence", Op. 70, is a work scored for 2 violins, 2 violas, and 2 cellos composed in the summer of 1890 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The work, in the traditional four-movement form, was titled "Souvenir de Florence" because the composer sketched one of the work's principal themes while visiting Florence, Italy, where he composed The Queen of Spades. Souvenir de Florence is dedicated to the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society in response to Tchaikovsky appointment as an Honorary Member. The work, revised several times between 1891 and 1892, has also been arranged for string orchestra by Lucas Drew and will be performed as such in the present concert. While not being strictly programatic music, as opposed to many of Tchaikovsky's iconic works, the piece nevertheless possesses an impressively vehement character, and seemingly reflects Tchaikovsky's own emotional tumult. From the first bars, the abrupt start of the piece with its iconic melody starting from the 6th degree asserts a forceful character that puts the listener right in the "action". Through the work, the idiomatic musical illustrations used by Tchaikovsky point to a work about love, pain, and suffering, in some of its most primal aspects.

The first movement, Allegro con spirito, is an energetic opening that showcases the virtuosity of the performers without any slow introduction. It begins with a bold theme on a particularly dissonant dominant harmony (something that is quite rare in classical music), played by the first violin, which is then passed on to the violas and cellos. As often in the music of Tchaikovsky, the cellos alternate between the more traditional role of providing a strong and steady foundation for the movement, and the slightly more personal choice of role for the music of this period to play many expressive melodic elements in addition to themes, while the violins and violas dance above with intricate accompaniment tunes.

The second movement, Adagio cantabile e con moto, is a slower and more contemplative section. Following it's opening emotional series of chords, the movement features an intimate yet somewhat perky melody played by the first violin at first, and later on by a solo cellist in this version of the piece. The movement builds in intensity as it progresses, with the second violin and viola joining in, until a variation of the opening bars is introduced as a climax of the movement. In the middle of the movement, Tchaikovsky introduces a completely new and unexpected fast paced material, a sweeping and elusive soft whisper of strings that greatly contrasts with the sound atmosphere of the rest of the movement. This section disappears as mysteriously as it came, before the first main section starts again. The overall mood of this movement is introspective and emotional, offering a contrast to the energetic first movement.

The third movement, Allegro moderato, is constructed around a melancholic tune reminiscing of Russian dances.

Opening section of the third movement of Souvenir de Florence

Russian Dance from Swan Lake

Notice the similitude in the main motives, the orchestration - with the prevalent use of string pizzicato accompaniment chords -, as well as the overall harmonic colors and key of a minor.

The theme is restated by different sections in an always more intense setting, until it is displayed in its most energetic, bold, and "aggressive" form at the culmination of the section. It is however quickly followed by a playful and fast theme played by the first violin, which is then passed on to the other instruments in turn, before the main theme of the movement is reintroduced over the energetic landscape crafted in this lighthearted section. The movement is characterized by its iconic themes, as well as its apparent shifts of tempo and mood that are however carefully articulated to give a coherent and unified musical picture.

The final movement, Allegro vivace, is a fast and virtuosic conclusion to the piece. Serving at time disturbing and worrisome melodies, and at other times celebratory climaxes, the movement is full of energy and drive, as the instruments race through its intricate and demanding passages. Tchaikovsky very briefly quotes in this movement one of his own most famous motives from the Swan lake.

Excerpt of the second theme of the final movement of Souvenir de Florence

Excerpt from Swan Lake's Act 1 Finale

See the full score here: Souvenir de Florence


Conductor: Nil Venditti

Italo-Turkish conductor Nil Venditti is fast establishing relationships with important orchestras and ensembles around the world. Highlights from recent seasons include collaborations with Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Orchestre National de Lille and Orchestre/Opera National Bordeaux Aquitane, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester and Camerata Salzburg, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Irish National Opera, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Arena di Verona as well as Orchestra della Toscana, of which she was Principal Guest Conductor from June 2020 until May 2022.

In the 2022/23 season, Venditti returns to conduct the Orchestre de Pau, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and the Transylvania State Philharmonic. She also makes debuts with the Orchestra of Paris Opera, Orchestre de Mulhouse and Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in France; Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the orchestra of Staatstheater Stuttgart and the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany; Castilla y Leon Symphony, Asturias Symphony, Galicia Royal Philharmonic and Extremadura orchestras in Spain; Tonhalle-Orchester and Sinfonieorchester Basel in Switzerland; Helsingborg Symphony, Helsinki Chamber Orchestra and Dalarna Sinfonietta in the Nordics; BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Royal Northern Sinfonia in the UK; and Belgrade Philharmonic in Serbia. In Turkey, she collaborates with ASSO Izmir, Istanbul State Symphony, Antalya State Symphony and Izmir State Symphony orchestras.

Venditti also makes her US debut in spring 2023 with the SFCM Orchestra in San Francisco.

With a strong affinity for Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven, Venditti’s repertoire is

increasingly expanding to include Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky,

Tchaikovsky and Debussy among others. Her interest in contemporary programming has in

recent seasons seen her focus on the works of Fazil Say (whose 5 th Symphony she will premiere at the Bremen Musikfest), Peter Maxwell-Davies, Fabien Waksman, Lepo Sumera, Caroline Shaw and Nicola Campogrande. She continues to excel in the operatic genre, having recently conducted operas including Così fan tutte, L’elisir d’amore, The Lighthouse, Carmen and Tosca.

Venditti is an advocate for finding inclusive experiences for new audiences. She has championed Nicola Campogrande’s Concerto for Audience and Orchestra, originally commissioned for the Paris Philharmonie, for which the public is given kazoos and plastic-wrapped mints with which to interact with the orchestra – and being conducted as part of the performance. She first conducted the work in 2016 for an open-air audience of 2,000 in Matera (Italy), and with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra in September 2019. Last season, Nil conducted Irish National Opera’s first virtual reality community opera Out of the Ordinary, which was developed for and with people living across Ireland, placing communities at the centre of the opera creation process.

Venditti trained in conducting at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste under the guidance of

Professor Johannes Schlaefli, as well as attending the Conducting Academy associated with the Pärnu Music Festival under Paavo Järvi, Neeme Järvi and Leonid Grin. In Italy, she graduated in cello performance with Francesco Pepicelli and orchestral conducting with Marcello Bufalini.

Cello: Leonardo Chiodo

Leonardo Chiodo was born 1998 in Helsinki, Finland. He’s a cellist with Italian, Russian and Finnish backgrounds. He began his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki in 2010 with professor Hannu Kiiski, later continuing with Martti Rousi. Currently he is studying privately with prof. Ivan Monighetti in Basel, Switzerland, while also continuing his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Finland.

Leonardo has attended masterclasses by professors such as e.g. Frans Helmerson (Kronberg, Naantali), Arto Noras (Naantali), Ivan Monighetti (Santander, Naantali), David Geringas (Berlin, Siena, Interlaken, Helsinki), Pieter Wispelwey (Helsinki). He also receives a scholarship from the International Academy of Music in Liechtenstein and participates in the intensive music weeks held there.

In 2018 Leonard received the 4th prize at the “Paulo Cello Competition” and won the “Finnish National Cello Competition”. In 2019 he was one of the five winners of the “Scandinavian De Unges Konsert – Young Soloist Competition“ in Bergen, Norway. In 2016 he won at the “X International E.A.Mravinsky Competition” in St.Petersburg, Russia.

Leonardo has played as soloist with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Helsinki Symphony Orchestra, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Jyväskylä Symphony Orchestra, Vaasa City Orchestra, Savonlinna Chamber Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, Orquesta Sinfónica Freixenet del Encuentro, St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra and the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra.

The Finnish Cultural Foundation entrusted Leonardo a cello made by Carlo Giuseppe Testore in 1718.

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