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  • Writer's pictureHelsingin Kamariorkesteri

Francophonia Concert 2021

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Concert at Temppeliaukio Church on March 11th 2021. Catherine Gouillard, organ |

James Salomon Kahane, conductor.

The Helsinki Chamber Orchestra and French Institute in Finland are happy and excited to invite you to the 2021 edition of the Francophonia Concert, marking the culmination of the “Mois de la Francophonie”! Audiences from France, Finland, and all over the world are welcome to listen to and explore the powerful sonorities of the organ combined to the might of a chamber orchestra. In a program that acts as a bridge between France and Finland, immerse yourself in a sound world full of stark contrast, between the reverencial Gothic Suite by Léon Boëllmann, the intimate Rakastava (The Lover) Suite by Jean Sibelius, and finally, the overwhelming Organ Concerto by Francis Poulenc. The concert will be live-streamed from Temppeliaukio Church on 11.03.2021 at 19:00, and therefore freely accessible all over the world! Performing on the Organ is our French guest Catherine Gouillard, and the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra is led by James Salomon Kahane.


  • Léon Boëllmann: Gothic Suite

  • Jean Sibelius: Impromptu for Strings

  • Jean Sibelius: Rakastava (The Lover)

  • Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings

Léon Boëllmann: Gothic Suite

The Suite Gothique is the most popular work by French composer Léon Boëllmann, consisting of four separate movements. Boëllmann was an admirer of composer César Franck, which eventually drove him to write this suite for organ, which on top of it’s popularity among organists, includes a famous Toccata which is in the repertoire of all virtuoso players. When it was introduced in 1895, the piece was an immediate hit and various instrumental versions of it were made, including one of the lyrical third movement, for cello and piano, by the composer himself. Had the composer not died just two years after he composed Suite Gothique, he might well have adapted further versions. For this edition of the Francophonia Concert, Catherine Gouillard will open the concert with a solo performance of the work, bringing with her the legacy of the French traditions that come with it.

Jean Sibelius: Rakastava (The Lover)

In 1894, at the age of 29, Jean Sibelius wrote a song cycle of four movements based on the Finnish text in the first book of the Kanteletar, a collection of Finnish folk poetry, sometimes referred to as the sister of the collection to the Finnish national epic Kalevala. Originally composed as an entry for a Finnish song competition, in which the piece earned him a second price, Sibelius nevertheless used the cycle as the basis for an orchestral suite for strings, timpani and triangle, completed in 1912, at the same time as his fourth symphony, in a period where Sibelius was moving away from his earlier “romantic” style, towards more classical traditions. The Rakastava Suite met, both in it’s choir and orchestral iteration, a strong and enduring success. Sibelius often conducted the suite together with his symphonies, as it is said that the piece never failed to "captivate audiences". The Helsinki Chamber Orchestra will be bringing it’s rendition of the orchestral version to life, and musically illustrate the beauty of its original text:

Where is my dear darling,

Where is my sweetheart dwelling,

Where my heart’s joy sitting,

Where my berry growing?

No sound comes from the clearings,

No noise of play from the copses,

No note from the woods,

No cuckooing from the hills.

If only my sweetheart were stepping,

My berry creeping,

My beloved walking,

Wanly wandering—

My horn would sound another note,

The hillsides would give answer,

The backwoods speak out,

Every knoll would cuckoo,

The copses play,

The clearings make merry.

Here my beloved walked,

Here went my pride and joy,

Here my sweetheart stepped,

Wanly wandered.

Here she stepped in the clearing,

There she sat on a rock.

The boulder is now far fairer,

The rock better than another,

The heath more beautiful than two others,

The copse sweeter than five others,

The marsh more flowery than six,

The whole forest more pleasant

From my beloved’s walking,

From my sweetheart’s stepping.

Good evening, my little bird

Good evening, my darling

Good evening, my little sweetheart

Dance my little bird,

Dance, my own beloved,

Dance, my little sweetheart!

Stay still, my little bird,

Stay still, my own beloved

Stay still, my little sweetheart!

Give me your hand, little bird,

Give me your hand, my own beloved,

Give me your hand, my little sweetheart!

Put your hand round my neck, little bird,

Your hand round my neck, my own beloved,

Embrace me, my own beloved,

Embrace me, my little sweetheart!

Give me your lips, little bird,

Your lips, my own beloved,

Embrace me, little bird, embrace me, my little sweetheart!

Give me your lips, my little sweetheart,

My little sweetheart! Farewell, my little bird,

Farewell, my own beloved,

Farewell, my little bird,

Farewell, my little sweetheart.

Francis Poulenc: Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings

Poulenc’s organ concerto, known as one of the most frequently performed pieces of the genre not written in the Baroque period, was commissioned by Princess Edmond de Polignac in 1934, as a piece with a chamber orchestra accompaniment and an easy organ part. The original idea was that the princess could play it herself. Originally given to Jean Françaix, the commission was declined by the composer, and consequently given to Poulenc. Poulenc quickly abandoned the original simple and small-scaled idea for something much more grandiose and ambitious, although his earlier harpsichord concerto and double-piano concerto were simpler, more light-hearted pieces which somewhat fitted the Princesses' wish. As he wrote in a letter to Françaix, "The not the amusing Poulenc of the Concerto for two pianos, but more like a Poulenc en route for the cloister." Indeed, the death of a colleague and friend, the young critic and composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud, in the spring of 1936, made Poulenc go on a pilgrimage to the Black Virgin of Rocamadour, where he rediscovered his Christian faith. This new religious conviction not only nurtured an interest in religious music, which began to transpire in his own compositions, but also highly influenced his already in the works Organ Concerto. Poulenc referred to it as being on the fringe of his religious works. Poulenc himself had never actually composed for the organ before, and so he studied great baroque masterpieces for the instrument by Johann Sebastian Bach and Dieterich Buxtehude; the work's neo-baroque feel reflects this inspiration. Poulenc was also advised about the instrument's registration and other aspects by the organist and composer Maurice Duruflé, who became the soloist in the private and public premiere of the work. Presently, the piece will conclude the Francophonia Concert, and embody in itself, with a French soloist and a Finnish orchestra, the strong musical link between France and Finland.

Information regarding COVID-19: In order to guarantee the safety of our audience and in following the recommendations of the Finnish Government, the following concert will be live-streamed online.

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