On January 29, 2022, it was (finally!) The world premiere of Karin Rehnqvist‘s and Kerstin Perski‘s work Silent Earth, for mixed choir and symphony orchestra.

Silent Earth in three movements is composed for Groot Omroepkoor (Dutch Radio Choir, with Peter Dijkstra as a student) and Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Dutch Radio Philharmonic Orchestra).

The conductor at the world premiere was the young Dutch conductor Gijs Leenaars.

The premiere included NTR ZaterdagMatinee (popular concert series on Saturdays on the Dutch public service channel) in Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

At the Baltic Sea Festival in August 2022, the work will be performed by the Swedish Radio Choir and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Berwaldhallen, Stockholm.

Here are extracts from the three movements:

1. Silent Earth

Lonely earth, Silent earth, Sesaons passing, Winds howling, Lakes glittering, Emptied, Fishless …

2. We, Who Once Were

We are the ones who ignored your pains, Let you suffer from our greed, Like spoiled children, Blinded by your light …Save yourself from us, Save us from ourselves!, Save us …

3. The Burning Earth

The shrieking flames. The groaning flames. Rolling, plunging in thundering waves, Gulping, gobbling with burning jaws, Cleaving us … drowning us … tearing us …, … howling, roaring ocean of flames!

Review:

Silent Earth for choir and orchestra, sketches alternately lush pastoral evocations of our planet, a formerly verdant place, characterised by languorous flute and muted jazz-inflected brass, bumping up against a more ominous underbelly of earth abandoned, left only to prevailing winds and desolation. These shapeshifting undertones characterise earth in the wake of destruction. 

In an unsettling manner, Rehnqvist’s colourations switch at liminal speed, oscillating between a variety of sophisticated sonic images. Her orchestration is both unique and breathtaking. 

Considering he will have stepped quickly in, Leenaars demonstrated an equal precision in control and understanding of the mutable forces Rehnqvist had let loose under his baton. 

Rehnqvist’s close involvement with choirs has shaped her knowledge and distinctive grip on writing for ensemble voices. Equal acuity is shown in the positioning of these ensemble voices within, adjacent or at a distinct tangent to the texture of orchestral writing. 

The level of detail in articulation and colouring in the vocal writing conjured in the work blends with, or offsets exquisitely, similar subtlety of timbral shading in the orchestra. Most notable in Silent Earth, voices used almost percussively in the shaping of words, dovetail and merge intricately, counterbalancing distinctive percussion techniques. 

Unusual large-scale textures which reduce, roar and topple from one part of the podium to the other, Silent Earth is at points innocently joyous, desolate, majestic and towards its conclusion, haunting – like the echo of a thought, of a planet that once was.

– Rose Dodd, 1 feb 2022, BachTrack


Silent Earth is a commissioned work by Eduard van Beinum Stichting and NTR ZaterdagMatinee and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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