Requiem for a dream

Witness the best of western classical music unravel in the city at these three upcoming performances...
In frame: Bengt Forsberg and Maria Forsström
In frame: Bengt Forsberg and Maria Forsström

Swedish musicians Maria Forsström and Bengt Forsberg are not new to Bengaluru. They flew down to the city last year for a set of performances and master classes and can also be accredited for a new wave of increased interest in western classical music in the city. Maria, born in Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden, is a mezzo-soprano and her repertoire ranges from early baroque to 20th-century composers, such as Luciano Berio and Benjamin Britten. Bengt, on the other hand, is a concert pianist, who has also won the Grammy for the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. The duo take to the stage in Bengaluru, for three performances, but before that, we get chatty with them to discover everything you need to know about the upcoming concerts.

Tell us more about the three performances in Bengaluru?
Bengt Forsberg:
I have a solo recital of an hour or so at the Bangalore School of Music, where I will present western piano music by some of the greatest composers, like Robert Schumann, Beethoven, Claude Debussy and a couple of other similar Nordic composers.
Maria Forsström: At BIC, we are doing a classical recital, titled Portraits of Her — Perspectives of Women in Music. It’s not just about presenting female composers, it’s presenting music from a woman’s perspective. In the west, identity politics is very strong these days. You need to belong to a certain group in order to be able to express yourself about the thoughts and feelings of that group. It’s quite a poisonous way of relating to art. We are presenting one of the greatest portraits ever written in music about a woman’s mind and her thoughts. It’s called Frauen-Liebe und Leben, which was written by Adelbert von Chamisso, an elderly French aristocratic gentleman working in Germany. He is creating the thoughts of a woman and you cannot imagine that he’s a man.

You will also be performing Mozart’s Requiem at Chowdiah. How did you decide on that particular piece?
It was Jonas Olsson (head of the vocal department and Choral Academy at Bangalore School of
) who suggested it to us. I told him it’s quite short. It’s about 40-45 minutes and we have Bengt on
site, so why not do a piano concerto with strings? So, I chose the 12th piano concerto after Bengt said that there were four options that could be played with only strings.
Bengt: Maria chose the number 12 because there’s limited time. We can play it with the same orchestra
as the Requiem. The Requiem is now in a version for only a choir, solo and string orchestra.
Maria: The version we are presenting is from 1852. During the early 19th century, you didn’t have many wind players. So, it’s expressively written to suit churches where you don’t have all these resources. It’s a practical addition from 1852, which I find highly interesting.

Both of you have performed together many-a-time. How easy has it now become to perform together?
It doesn’ t feel like work. It feels like we are exploring, playing and having fun. It’s a very playful process.
Bengt: Not in the case of Mozart’s Requiem. There I am secondary. She is playing the big part. She leads the orchestra and the choir and has a vision for the whole piece. And I join her just as a keyboard player in that piece.

How did you work on the set-list for the three performances?
Jonas helped us with the set-list.
Bengt: My concert is music, which I have played my entire life.
Maria: Mozart’s Requiem is done every month in Sweden. And I prepared it in France, I prepared it in
Stockholm, I prepared it in Gothenburg. It’s one of the most beloved choir pieces. It is also educating. So, each and every choir with some kind of ambition should have performed Mozart’s Requiem.

What is next for both of you following your performances in Bengaluru?
I am performing at the Gothenburg Concert Hall with newly commissioned music for symphonic organ, mezzo-soprano and dancers. Concept concerts are highly interesting when you add themes and do it with lighting and so on.
Bengt: My next concert is a trio concert — violin, cello and piano.

Entry free. January 12, 6 pm. At Aruna Sunderlal Auditorium, Ganganagar.

Entry free. January 15, 7 pm. At BIC, Domlur.

INR 299 onwards. January 19, 7.30 pm. At Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleshwaram.

X: @al_ben_so

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