The Sounds of Kantele

3 NOVEMBER 2019 

Church of St. Catherine of Italy, Valletta - 7:30pm


Sounds of Kantele is a concert portraying the Finnish zither-like instrument kantele. It is considered the national instrument of Finland as it occurs already in the earliest mentions of Finnish folklore. Kantele’s tradition lies in folk music, but it is nowadays played at a professional level in every genre. Sounds of Kantele introduces a modern repertoire where contemporary and ancient meet.


Matthew Whittall           The Wine-Dark Sea II (2011)


Claude Debussy             Prèmiere Arabesque (1891)


Jukka Linkola                  Summer Tales: III Terracotta Lady (1997)


Jovanka Trbojevic         Lento for Kantele Solo (2001)


Jukka Tiensuu                Manaus – Ghost Sonata for Kantele (1988)

Programme Notes

Matthew Whittall: 

The Wine-Dark Sea II (2011)

The wine-dark sea is like a dreamy musical postcard from the Mediterranean. Whittall is inspired by landscape and nature which can be heard in his music as he paints strong visual images. Impressions of waves and ethereal floating are created with changing time signatures, several breathing pauses, tremolos, flageolets and improvisational passages.

Claude Debussy: 

Prèmiere Arabesque (1891)

Claude Debussy’s Prèmiere Arabesque (1891) is a classic and widely performed piece. Though it is composed for piano, thanks to a creative harp arrangement, kantele players have been able to join playing this beautiful music, transforming the piece into what it might have been had Debussy written it for kantele!

Jukka Linkola: 

Summer Tales: III Terracotta Lady (1997)

Terracotta Lady (1997) is a part of a suite for kantele with optional percussion. Linkola has captured a fresh energy to the piece as he uses kantele sometimes almost in a somewhat percussive manner. The contrast between long resonating chords and quick energetic passages provide the listener with both a resting place as well as intrigue of what might happen next.

Jovanka Trbojevic: 

Lento for Kantele Solo (2001)

Lento (2001) by Jovanka Trbojevic is constructed of continuously varied three-note motifs and bell-like chords. Both are anchored by their respective bass notes, which remain unmoved throughout the work. The events progress with extreme slowness, forcing the listener to focus on the sonority. Resonance is increased by aggressive glissando clusters, bowed sounds, knocks against the body and strings of the instrument, low humming and a distorted tone produced by a spring from a ballpoint pen attached to the lowest string.

Jukka Tiensuu: 

Manaus – Ghost Sonata for Kantele (1988)

Manaus (“incantation”) by Jukka Tiensuu is one of the classics in concert kantele repertoire. It is a very virtuosic piece that challenges the performer’s technical skills. In Manaus kantele is tuned into a specific microtonal tuning that adds to the piece’s eerie tone.

Artist Bios

Juulia Pölönen

Juulia Pölönen is a professional kantele artist, active performer and chamber musician. She graduated as Master of Music from the Sibelius Academy of the University of Arts in 2017. Pölönen held her debut concert in Helsinki in August 2018. Pölönen is especially known for

her contemporary music repertoire, improvisation and making various kinds of music with kantele. She has premiered pieces by several composers. Pölönen won the 3rd International Kantele Competition In 2015, receiving an honorary distinction for her performance of the virtuosic kantele solo piece Toccata by Pekka Jalkanen. In addition to Finland, she has performed in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK. Since 2016 Pölönen has been employed as a musician to perform for the thousands of international visitors in the Rock Church of Helsinki. She also works as a kantele teacher in local music schools.

© Festivals Malta - 2019