Renewed EnsembleTimes
EnsembleTimes has undergone some changes as we introduce a new format, which we hope will make it easier to navigate our site. From now on there will be regular editorials as well as opinion pieces from guest writers that will touch on different issues and not necessarily always musical ones. EnsembleTimes will also include articles and information about our various projects as well as downloads and links to records of Ensemble XXI’s history.

Over the last year we brought our record label EnsembleGram on line for free download. It includes recordings of Ensemble XXI with me as well as live recordings with Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Richard Bonynge. This is our small contribution to make classical music more available to music lovers over the Internet. Some of these recordings are quite historical (such as Richard Bonynge’s recording of Haydn’s rarely performed opera Orpheus and Euridice or excerpts from Gennady Rozhdestvensky’s recordings of Händel Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 with Ensemble XXI in the Bolshoi Saal of the Moscow Conservatory) and therefore we hope that EnsembleGram will fill a unique niche amongst small record labels. With the world’s classical music recording scene collapsing, after it was bought to its knees by the greed of the “music industry” (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) many orchestras have now established their own recording labels. Few, however, are actually making the recordings available for no cost on line. We think that with the commercial pressure that classical music has been under in recent years, it is time to realise that classical recordings are not the money spinner that the moguls of the record labels once thought. The idea that yet another recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with whoever was the latest “flavour of the month” was going to rival rock groups or the Three Tenors, was doomed to failure from the beginning, as has now been proven.  

Just when you thought the reindeer season was over… we are delighted to let you know that Journeyman Pictures has released the Iris Makler film “Reindeer Serenade” about Ensemble XXI’s tour to the Arctic Circle” on YouTube.

You can also find the extraordinary diary of Ensemble XXI’s concertmaster, Pia Siirala, written during her field trips to the North of Sakhalin Island. This diary of her epic journeys to the Nivkh indigenous people, when she lived with them during their hunting and fishing seasons beside rivers and in forests and then again in the winter in the Kolkhozes (collective farms) with their frightful conditions in the thick of snow blizzards, has now been translated into English (also soon into Russian) from her native Finnish. These trips when she collected the music of the Nivkh people directly from the fast dying elders, are unique and have already resulted in three compositions that she has written since then. “Nivkh Themes” for String Trio and Double Bass has already been widely performed in Russia, the EU and America. 2008 will see the premieres of “Ulita’s Walk” for chamber orchestra and the Suite for Solo Violin.  

For the second year running Pia Siirala's work with the Nivkh people has been recognised with grants from the Wihuri Foundation in Finland.