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  • Writer's pictureHelsingin Kamariorkesteri

Nordic Elegies

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Concert at Temppeliaukio Church on September 22nd 2020. Soloists of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra. Register here.

Forgotten gems from the Swedish and Finnish musical treasure troves.

The first Helsinki Chamber Orchestra concert of this autumn season takes a fresh look at three fascinating chamber works from the Nordic countries: Edvard Grieg's wistful Andante con moto for piano trio, Amanda Maier-Röntgen's impassioned piano quartet, and Einar Englund's large-scale piano quintet, written following the heat of the Winter War. Although all three composers received recognition during their lifetime, Grieg and Englund wrote a limited number of chamber works and are more widely known for their orchestral works, whereas Amanda Maier-Röntgen's music has been widely neglected since her passing - until recent years. For all of their differences, these works are united by a certain Nordic lyricism, and the elegiac spirit in the larger works can be explained by the fact that Maier-Röntgen's piano quartet was her last finished work before her untimely death, whereas Englund's piano quintet was heavily influenced by his experiences participating in the Winter War.


  • Amanda Maier-Röntgen (1853-1894): Piano quartet in E minor (1891)

  • Edvard Grieg (1843-1907): Andante con moto for piano trio (1878)

  • Einar Englund (1916-1999): Piano quintet (1941)

The concert will last approximately 1.15, and will be performed without an intermission.

Amanda Maier-Röntgen: Piano quartet in E minor

The daughter of a café owner, Amanda Maier-Röntgen (1853-1894) was born in the small Swedish town of Landskrona. Her musical talents were discovered early, and she ended up becoming the first female graduate in music direction from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm in 1872. She led an active life, concertising as a violinist, composing, and befriending Johannes Brahms, Edward Grieg, Joseph Joachim, Ethel Smyth and many others through the musical salons she arranged with her husband, Julius Röntgen. Julius and Amanda were both highly supportive of each other's musical activities, a relationship Ethel Smyth described as “a charming blend of art and courtship.” This support, which was rare for a female composer of this era, likely contributed to Maier-Röntgen's success, which included performing her violin concerto in both Halle and the Gewandhaus. The piano quartet is her final composition, finished during a trip to Norway, visiting the Griegs and others. It is a large-scale work in four movements, filled with instantly-appealing and memorable themes. A proud husband writes of the piece in one of his letters to Grieg from this time: “My wife has finished a piano quartet these days—it is a magnificent piece and we want to play it in Leipzig. Maybe later at Troldhaug!!”

It is not known if the work was ever performed during the salons in Leipzig, where Maier-Röntgen performed Brahms piano quartets with the composer at the piano. Her health had gradually worsened following three miscarriages, and she passed away in her sleep in June 1894. Following her passing, a heartbroken husband added an inscription to the score of this piano quartet: ‘Not all of me will die’.

Edvard Grieg: Andante con moto for piano trio Although Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) is primarily known for his orchestral works and piano miniatures, he left behind him a small number of chamber works, most of which have become staples of the repertoire. Among his lesser-known gems is the Andante con moto (1878), meant as a movement of a complete piano trio which he ended up leaving unfinished. We have Julius Röntgen to thank for re-discovering the piece, and for informing Grieg's widow Nina in a letter that he considered it a work worthy of publication:

”It is a beautiful piece and completely in order. . . . What a solemnity it conveys! How he can't get enough of that single theme, that even in the major mode retains its mourning character, and then develops so beautifully its full power . . .”

The work indeed centers around a memorable theme, where Grieg achieves an astonishing amount of variety by repeating the theme while changing key, harmony, rhythm, tempo, instrumentation and texture in the most creative ways imaginable.

Einar Englund: Piano quintet Einar Englund (1916-1999) wrote the piano quintet as his graduation piece, a stark work that is heavily influenced by the Winter War and Englund's own participation in it. Written several years before his first symphony, it shows a young composer already writing in a very ”symphonic” manner for a smaller ensemble. Englund himself described the style of the quintet as 'both thematically and harmonically an individual mixture of Franck, Reger, Brahms and Ravel! But the cocktail is Englundian nevertheless.' He dedicated the work to his brother Göran, who perished in the Winter War. The aging Sibelius was highly favorable of the quintet and told the young composer that he should always remember it as the first milestone in his career.

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 has a total of 140 seats available, in order to guarantee the safety distance of at least 2 meters between each audience member. Due to the rapidly changing conditions, tickets will not be paid for in advance. Instead, register online now to save your seat and pay your ticket at the door!

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