Lieksan Vaskiviikko by Dawn Holte
I n 1980, Erkki Eskelinen, founder of the Pielinen-Karelian Music College in Lieksa, had an idea. From that idea, the annual Lieksan Vaskiviikko (Lieksa Brass Week) was realized. The first festival had a very modest, yet respectable beginning. Its program included nine concerts, a Finnish Brass quartet, a Helsinki Orchestra, and one guest artist: trumpeter Henri Adelbrecht of Zurich, France. For the first fifteen years of Lieksa Brass Week, Eskelinen served as the headmaster. According to Petri Aarnio, current managing director of Lieksa Brass Week, Eskelinen was the heart and soul of the festival during the time that he served.
The year 2001 marks the 22nd Lieksa Brass Week. What began as a small Finnish festival has grown into an internationally respected convention which hosts an equally respected international competition. This year, it was carefully organized by Jouko Harjanne, the Artistic Director; Matti Taponen, the Chairman of the Lieksa Brass Week Support Association; and Petri Aamio, the Managing Director. These wonderful people have, yet again, managed to organize a very successful Lieksa Brass Week.
This year, Lieksa Brass Week featured 19 classical concerts, as well as 45 guest artists and groups. The artists included such virtuosi as Steven Mead, Patrick Sheridan, Roger Bobo, Jukka Myllys, and many more icons in the world of brass. The week also featured the jazz quintet, Mr. Fonebone; widely acclaimed brass quintet, Spanish Brass “Luur-Metalls; and The Conscript Band of the Finnish Defence Forces to name a few.
In addition to the 19 classical concerts, there were performances that occurred in the Brass Arena. The Brass Arena normally serves as an ice hockey arena that has a seating capacity of 4,500 People, according to Petri Aarnio. During Lieksa Brass Week, it is a place where tourists, competitors, artists, teachers, and locals come together to enjoy Finnish entertainment, light dancing, and beer. Besides that, where else can you catch Steve Rosse doing the salsa?
The concerts this year definitely lived up to the theme of 2001 Lieksa Brass Week, “big and beautiful.” This not only provided an excellent description of the featured instrument of the year, the tuba, but also described the phenomenal talent that was displayed throughout the week.
The concert venue of Lieksa Brass Week provided a huge variety of entertainment for all listeners. One of the concert’s themes was, ‘Angelic Music.’ This concert took place in the majestic Matasvaara Mine. The artists performed on a stage in the middle of a beautiful, small body of water while concertgoers stood on the surrounding cliffs and looked down. Some of the music included such heavenly tunes as Pie Jesu, by Gabriel Faure and arranged by ‘Timo Forsstrom, and Danny Boy, arranged by Toni Kulku and Patrik Knif.
Another unique concert theme was the ‘Pianists Choice’ concert in which the accompanists got to choose which pieces the soloists would play. The accompanists for the evening (and throughout the week) were Kari Hanninen, Kari Tikkala, and Naoko Shibayama-Aarnib. This concert took place in the widely utilized Cultural Centre, which was used for the tuba competition and numerous other concerts throughout the week.
Just a short walk away was the Lieksa Church, a large, white, wooden building with a high ceiling that makes for gorgeous acoustics. This facility provided a place for such concerts as the ‘Master’s Evening,’ concert, which featured the talent of Steve Rosse and Patrick Sheridan on tuba, Steven Mead on euphonium, Thierry Caens on trumpet, Bruno Schneider on horn, and Jorgen van Rijen on trombone. Also, the concert entitled, ‘A Choir and a Brass Choir,’ took place here along with ‘Power of the Brass Concert,’ the finals of the tuba competition, and the ‘Big and Beautiful’ concert. The ‘Big and Beautiful’ concert featured Gabriel Faure’s Pavane, Thierry Caens playing Joseph Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto, and Mozart’s Requiem, KV 626, d-minor performed by the Vaasa City Orchestra, and soprano Mia Huhta, alto Jenny Carlstedt, tenor Topi Lehtipuu, and bass Heikki Orama.
One of the most exciting performances that took place during this week was that of the Spanish Brass, “Luur-Metalls.” It was especially exciting for their tuba player, Vincente Lopez, as this was his final tour before going to teach in Valencia. He will be replaced by 23 year old Pedro Castano, who performs as solo tubist with the Coruna Orchestra. LuurMetaIls performed many times throughout the week. They appeared in the Lieksa Church, the Koli Auditorium across Lake Pielinen, and the Cultural Centre. Their first appearance took place in the Lieksa Church on Monday, July 30. The first half of this concert was devoted to some of the greatest composers of all times as the brass quintet played Georg Friedrich Handel’s The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor and Concerto in g minor B.M.V. 1041. For the next half of the concert, Spanish Brass did what they do best, selections of Spanish music. When they played the last notes of their final piece, the crowd broke out in tremendous applause, begging them to return for an encore. The quintet obliged, and came back to the stage two more times. After the second encore was complete, and the audience continued to praise their performance relentlessly, Spanish Brass “Luur MetaIls” took their final bows.
Other concerts throughout the week included the ‘Ceremony Music’ concert, performed by the Kaarti Septet; the ‘Brass in Pairs’ concert in which Steven Mead and Patrick Sheridan teamed up to play David Gillingham’s Diversive Elements; ‘Sonatas of the Soloists,’ featuring the sonatas of Paul Hindemith; ‘Night Music,’ featuring such works as Franz Schubert’s Nacht and Traume and Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade, and many more.
Lieksa Brass Week’s Music Courses Aside from the wonderful concerts throughout the festival, Lieksa Brass Week provides an excellent learning environment for brass students. Petri Aarnio emphasizes the importance of the educational aspect of Lieksa Brass Week. This year, Aamio explains, 193 students were enrolled in the school for personal tuition, 50 students were enrolled in master classes, and of those 50, 15 students were from outside Finland. The music courses available and their cost, according to the Lieksa Vaskiviiko schedule, were as follows:
Master class FIM 850 (about $130 US)
Personal tuition………………….. FIM 850
Ensemble course FIM 700 (about $100 US)
Septet course…………………….. FIM 700
Wind band course……………….. FIM 700
Jazz and big band course……….. FIM 800
(about $120 US) Passive student FIM 250
(about $36 US) *1 US Dollar=FIM 6.91
Alessandro Fossi, co-winner of First Prize (Photo by Petri Aamio)
Furthermore, students enrolled in the courses were able to purchase student season tickets to most of the concerts for FIM 250 and a discount to the Brass Arena concerts. The students were able to stay at the school for FIM 300 for the whole week, or have dormitory accommodation at the Rauhala School dormitory for FIM 900 (about $132) for the whole week.
The teachers for the tuba master classes included the all-star roster of Roger Bobo, Vincente Lopez, Harri Miettunen, Steve Rosse, and Patrick Sheridan. Harri Miettunen was also in charge of the personal tuition sessions for the tuba. Teachers for the euphonium classes included Steven Mead and jukka Myllys, while Simo Kanerva and Myllys were in charge of the personal tuition.
The master classes consisted of a great variety of lessons. Steve Rosse, tubist of the Sydney Symphony and Lecturer of Tuba at the Canberra Institute of the Arts, described how his master classes were organized. He explained that the first hour and a half of each morning were spent on breathing. Then, he began a discussion on the relaxation and mental Preparation that is involved in playing the tuba. After that, they spent time on some group warm-ups, and then moved on to some individual playing. On that particular day, Grant Harville and Carolyn jantsch, both competitors in the tuba competition, played a lesson in front of the class. Andreas Hofmeir of Munich Germany, also one of the competitors,
played several accompanied works for the class, and Madis Sander of the Estonian National Opera Orchestra played for the class as well.
Finally, the class studied some standard orchestral excerpts. They discussed ways to maintain good intonation and style in playing. They also discussed how to prepare for an udition, and what types of things one should expect when at an audition.
One does not have to be a first-class tuba player to fit into the courses. Patrick Sheridan, who was working for Lieksa Brass Week for the third time, explained that his master class consisted of all skill levels and ages. He had students from beginners to early professionals in his classes. There were high school students,college students, and adults. The classes offer valuable lessons for all musicians.
Roland Szentpali, co-winner of First Prize (Photo by Petri Aamio)
Lieksa International Tuba Competition The brass instrument competitions are the newest addition to the Lieksa Brass Week. They began in 1998 with the Nordic Trombone competition. 1999 saw the Raimo Sarmas International Trumpet Competition, and last year was the International Holger Fransman Horn Competition. This year, obviously, was the Lieksa International Tuba Competition. Future plans include a 2002 trumpet competition, 2003 trombone competition to coincide with the International Trombone Convention in Finland that year, and in 2004, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the Lieksa Brass Week will host its first ever euphonium competition.
This year’s competition was met with great success. Choosing from 58 audition tapes submitted, the jury qualified 31 competitors from 16 nationalities to the competition rounds in Lieksa according to the Conference program notes.
The competitors had all arrived by Friday, and a drawing was held to determine the order of performance for the first round of the competition. They also had a drawing to determine which accompanist each contestant would use according to Grant Harville, a competitor. HarviIle explained that on Friday, they were all given time to rehearse with their accompanists before the competition began on Saturday. The first round of the competition was split up into two days, Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29. This was done to give the jury time to hear all of the musicians play. In this round, the competitors had to play Three Miniatures, by Anthony Plog and When We Were Giants, by Jonathan D. Green. The round went quite smoothly, and according to jury member Steve Rosse, it was quite easy for the judges to determine who would move to the next round.
The competitors who were chosen to move on to the second round of the competition included: Oscar AbeIla, Arnaud Boukhitine, David Cribb, Allessandro Fossi, Hidehiro Fujita, Petri Keskitalo, Shuko Kuramoto, and Roland Szentpali.
The second round of the competition was also split up into two days, July 31st and August 1st. Each day, four of the eight competitors performed a miniature recital for the jury and audience members. The competitors were to choose which pieces they would perform from a list. They had to perform either Edvard Gregson’s A/arum, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Capriccio, Askell Masson’s Boreas, or John Stevens’ Salve Venere, Salve Marte. They also had to choose to perform either Trygve Madsen’s or Bruce Broughton’s Sonata. Finally, they had to choose between Fritz Kreisler’s Liebeslied, Sigmund Romberg’s Serenade from Student Prince, or Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita. The pieces that were most commonly performed included the Penderecki, Madsen, Kreisler, and Romberg pieces.
After this round was complete, the judges had few difficulties in determining who would proceed to the final round. The very capable musicians Boukhitine, Fossi, and Szentpali progressed to the third, and final round of the Lieksa Tuba Competition.
ligo-ligo, composed by Finnish native Markus Fagerudd, was the determining piece of music in the final round of the competition. According to the program notes, this piece of music was created while the composer was in residence with the Lappeenranta and the Vaasa City Orchestras. Its strange title comes from Fagerudd’s daughter speaking the words, “Iigo-iigo,” while he was composing the piece. Harri Lidsle, European tuba soloist, and host of ITEC 2001 gave the world premiere of ligo-ligo.
Arnold Boukhitine, third prize winner. (Photo by Petri Aamio)
Patrick Sheridan explains that although he “was not moved by the piece,” he believed it was a “…good test piece. It had some nice
melodic moments, and some good technique testing. It wasn’t completely inside of a normal tonal picture, so it required a very good set of ears to be able to execute some of the leaps, and some of the odd atonal stuff that was involved in the piece.”
All three competitors gave excellent performances with the Vaasa City Orchestra in the third round of the competition. In fact, they did so well that the judges were unable to decide who was in first, second, and third place for the overall competition. After much contemplation, the judges came up with their final decisions. In third place, receiving FIM 10.000, was Arnaud Boukhitine. Then, instead of announcing a second place recipient, it was announced that Allessandro Fossi and Roland Szentpali had tied for first place and would split the prize money. The second place winner would have received FIM 20.000 and the first place winner would have received FIM 35.000.
Overall, the first ever Lieksa Tuba Competition was met with great success. Some incredibly talented musicians played some beautiful and challenging music. All that’s left to say now is, make way for 2004, when the mighty
euphonium hits the scene!
Meet the Competitors:
Dawn Holte: Why did you enter this competition?
David Cribb: I did it to stay fresh, and get out of the normal routine. I also did it to have some fun.
Alessandro Fossi: I like to play and to do something new. Just for fun too, and for the chance to play with the orchestra.
Arnaud Boukhitine: I’d say pretty much the same. I did some other competitions before. They give you inspiration to keep
going. It also helps you to see the level of competition that is out there.
Roland Szentpali: I like to take part in competitionsi
because I always meet with good friends and we have a lot of fun together. It’s also very good to see other players from different countries, because every nation has different blood and taste, so they play another way. It’s very important to listen to the differences…to build to my playingi
Dawn Holte: How does the Lieksa Tuba Competition compare to other international competitions?
AF: The last competition that I did was much more difficult, strenuous, and stressful. This is more reasonable.
AB: This competition is different, because it is in Finland instead of France or Italy. Finland is too far, but the atmosphere of Helsinki is friendly.
DH: What do you think of Finland?
AF:It’s a fine place, but strange. There is so much light. I like the forests, lakes, and all of the nature in Finland though.
Grant Harville: I’m really enjoying the town (Lieksa).
The Spanish Brass on Lieksa’s Mina Street, Pielisenkatu (Photo by Petri Aamio)
DH: How do you feel about the level of the competition?
AF: Very good (playfully hits Boukhitine, and laughs). There are a lot of young tuba players, which is a good thing.
DC: It just keeps getting better and better. If you aren’t playing 100%, then you’re not going through to the next round.
RS: This was the most difficult international tuba competition that I ever took part in. The level was really really high. There were a lot of very good players from around the world. It was a real tuba world championship.
AB: Compared to four years ago, the instruments have really changed. There are many more piston valves being used. Also, there are very different styles of playing based on nationality. It’s much more personal.
DH: In what ways did you prepare for this competition?
DC: I was in a competition four years ago, and I promised myself that the next time I did one, I’d be prepared. This time, I recorded myself consistently, and had about six piano rehearsals.
GH: Lots of shedding (practicing). I did some recording, and played a little bit for John [Stevens]. I also did a practice performance for a type of music appreciation class [at UW Madison], and I did a whole lot of listening to recordings. I also learned a little Finnish before coming.
AF: It’s difficult to prepare as a professional. You end up playing about ten hours per day when you’re rehearsing with the orchestra.
AB: A bit the same [as Fossil. I’m also doing teaching, but since the competition is in the summer, that helps.
RS: I didn’t have a lot of time to practice, because I had five more concerts, with different programs, at the Lahti conference and another concert and master class in South Korea. So, it was hard to practice, because I had seven different programs for three weeks.
DH: (to Szentpali) I know that you had a callus on the skin between your nose and upper lip from practicing so much. How do you think that this affected your performance throughout the competition?
RS: Finally we found the truth. It wasn’t just about too much practicing. The other problem was that I have an eight-year-old mouthpiece that I got from Roger Bobo as a present. I have always played with it, but now the silver has come down from the mouthpiece and the brass hurt a lot. It was very painful to play with this in the final, but for now it is OK.
DH: What have been your favorite things here in Lieksa?
AF: I’ve gone to many of the concerts. They’re all very interesting. There are many different people with many different styles. My favorites? Spanish Brass and Pat.
AB: I’ve really enjoyed being with the competitors. There have been a lot of good friendships developing in just a few days.
DC: The atmosphere among the competitors has been fantastic! It has been very friendly. Never a stress.
Roger Bobo and Patrick Sheridan give feedback to competitors after the first round. (Photo by Petri Aamio)
Meet the Jury:
Dawn Holte: Could you describe the level of the competition this year?
Vincente Lopez: It’s been fairly normal, because it has been a lot of the same people [as other competitions].
Harri Miettunen: Everyone is good, but there are only a few in the top. It’s very hard to come out on top. They’ve all done fine work, but it’s been a difficult competition.
Pat Sheridan: It was very high. There was a real wide range. I think the oldest competitor was thirty or thirty-one, all the way down to sixteen years old, so there was a real wide range of maturity in terms of the playing. But the ability level of everybody was really high. I’ve been on a lot of juries and this is the best field I’ve seen from a competition maybe since Geneva in 1991.
DH: How do you feel about the repertoire that was chosen?
VL: I liked how it gave a good display of musicality. In the first two rounds especially.
HM: It was a good choice of music. I would do the same [in competition]. I know that I played the same in Notre Dame, well, at least two.
PS: I liked it. What I liked about the Green Sonata is that it lies in the really bad register for F-tuba, and the ones who really separated themselves from the pack were ones that had complete control of that register. They made no excuses for the instrument. They actually did what they had to do to get it right for the sake of the music. What I liked about the second round was that they had to play a melody. There’s so much technique developed in the international school of tuba playing that a lot of students don’t know how to play a really good melody, and we saw that. There was really only one interpretation of the melody that was truly excellent, and the rest were pretty average. That was pretty eye-opening from the standpoint that these cats have unbelievable technique, but they have a very difficult time turning a phrase when it’s just half notes and quarter notes. I think it was an important reflection for me to include in my teaching some simple melodies, and practicing doing that, because it’s not as easy as it looks.
Dawn Holte: How was this competition judged?
PS: We use a system like the Van Cliburn competition, like the Tchaikovsky competition, like the Maurice Andre Competion. It’s a numerical one. So, you give your numbers. Out of 25 points, you give a number to each competitor, and then they throw out the high score, and they throw out the low score and they take an average. So at the very end they took the averages from the 2nd round, the recital round, and the averages from the concerto night, and at the end we had a numerical tie. Both Alessandro Fossi and Roland Szentpali both were tied numerically to the second decimal point.
DH: Has it been difficult to judge? Especially Jouko, with your trumpet background.
Jouko Harjanne: Not really. It was easy to pick. I think that it has been an advantage to being a trumpet player, because I’m more objective. I don’t give points because I know a note is difficult to play on the tuba, because I don’t know. Instead, I have to listen for musical things. Musical things are number one.
HM: It has been easy to pick. I listen for music. In the first round, with a lot of the competitors, it sounded like a competition for speed. But, when I hear good music, I know that it is good.
Roger Bobo: You know, it’s becoming more like a violin competition now. Let’s say ten years ago, it was easier, because all you had to do was find three people who could play well. Now, everybody can play well. We have to find three people who we personally feel have the most to say musically. That makes it enormously more interesting, because all of these people can play tuba, and you’ll hear on the finals, here are three people who play the tuba extraordinarily well. They’re all wonderful. They all could win first prize. So, it’s going to be a decision based on their musicality. And then that becomes interesting, because not all people agree on what musicality they want to hear.
DH: Do you think that the objectivity was there amongst the judges?
PS: Yeah. It’s the most non-political jury I’ve ever served on. In the end. I mean, it reared its head a few times, but it was very non-political. And we talked about that at the very first meeting before the first player even played. We really wanted to make sure that we’d get a good, fair result, and that we put all the personal baggage aside. And we made a real effort to do that, and to check each other and to check ourselves.
DH: When you were judging, what types of things were you really listening for?
Steve Rosse: The comments that I wrote stressed very musical aspects such as dynamic expression and attention to the composer’s directions. I didn’t really write about missed notes or things like that.
RB: Well, first of all. There are two things. One is tuba playing, and one is musicality. And if the tuba playing isn’t enough, there won’t be musicality anyway. So, if there are problems in the tuba playing, it’s very easy to note what the problems are, and to say no right after you hear this person. Under no circumstances should he go ahead. What we want to hear is a good, clean sound, response, finger technique, and articulation. So, function has to be in place in order to consider winning, and then, it becomes enormously more interesting, because then we start listening to musicality.
JH: Music. If someone is playing technically perfect, but has no heart, no one wants to hear it.
DH: Could you compare this competition to other international competitions?
RB: The set up is fairly similar. It was a good competition. It’s organized extremely well. It’s the only competition I’ve ever been in in my life that’s stayed on schedule. If it says lunch at 12:00, you’re out at 12:00.
JH: It’s been a very basic competition. You discover very early who will be in the final round.
PS: It’s a good one. Lieksa Brass Week runs a great competition. I’ve been there for the last several summers, and their trumpet competition and their horn competition last summer… really truly great international standard. I was pleased to see so many people show up from so far away to participate, so it was a nice competition.
“Be Cool. Come to Finland.”
Contrary to what one might expect, travelling to Finland is relatively simple — not to mention safe, and fun too! Lieksa Brass Week is a perfect opportunity for a wonderful musical experience as well as a beautiful, relaxing vacation. With classical concerts, the brass arena, and local bars and discos, one can find great, quality entertainment.
Season tickets to the Lieksa Brass Week cost FIM 400 for each session. The first session is good for the first nine classical concerts, and the second, for the last ten. Discounts are available for large groups. A round trip plane ticket from New York to Helsinki is approximately $400.00. Then, you can take a plane from Helsinki to Joensuu Airport for around $120.00 round trip, or take a train directly to Lieksa for a little less. Bus transportation from Joensuu to Lieksa is also available.
Finland provides many activities outside of the regularly scheduled Lieksa Brass Week events. You can experience Sauna, shoot the Ruuna Rapids by wooden boat or rubber raft, visit the Pielinen museum, go fishing, and much more! So, as Harri Lidsle says, “Be cool. Come to Finland!” Lieksa Brass Week 2002 is waiting for you!
Special thanks to the The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for Press and Culture and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Office of Research for making the coverage of this event possible.