Gränslandet, a symphonic festival that makes its home in Trädgården, made a memorable debut last summer when its first edition took place in August. Now the festival is back for its sophomore year, bringing its usual blend of classical, modern and avant garde music along with art and food to the Skanstull venue. To find out more about what they have planned, we spoke to founders David Huang and Christian Karlsen.
This is the second year of Gränslandet, what did you learn from last year’s debut edition and how did you want to develop the festival this year?
The most important lesson from last year is that we really learned about the great demand for classical and symphonic music among younger people. So many crave something different these days, something taking you beyond time and space, that requires patience and is different from the general trends in our society today. We realised that even with small resources you can achieve a grand goal as long as you are you convincing enough presenting your vision and ideas. We are a tiny organisation with a warm heart and big vision, last year’s turn-out of almost 6000 visitors is something we were really proud of! Last year we created a festival basically out of an embryo, not knowing what the reaction and reception would be. This year we already feel we can be bolder in what we present and how we present it. We are emboldened in our belief in the power of the classical music. At the same time, we have focused on widening the perspective to make the programme even more diverse. For instance, the fact that the Saturday afternoon’s orchestral programme last year was really popular among families with young children, is something we this year want to take even further by presenting a special opera production for children in partnership with the Royal Swedish Opera. As we like the festival to be a multi-sensory and all-encompassing experience we are proud to have a great variety of locally produced food and drinks, to be able in partnership with Independent Curators International to present he interactive art-exhibition Do It curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist as well as presenting a unique midnight Silent Concert with Bachs Goldberg Variations performed on a Yamaha silent grand piano with the audience listening on wireless headphones.
Can you talk us through this year’s line-up?
Like last year the centrepiece of the festival is our 80-musician-strong symphony orchestra. We are so excited that as one of the real highlights, the festival can present one of the greatest and most dramatic symphonic works of all time – Tchaikovski’s 4th Symphony. For the first time in Scandinavia, Gränslandet presents Philip Glass’ maybe most important symphonic works, his 6th Symphony “Plutonian Ode” in a tribute evening to the composer, also featuring the Violin Concerto with Norwegian star-violinist Guro Kleven Hagen. One of the bookings we are most proud of is that we are able to present a collaboration with the Kurdish mega-star Ciwan Haco. A fantastic singer and a super-star in his home land, whose concerts have been visited by hundreds of thousands of people – and as it turned out – lives in Gävle. One of Sweden’s foremost composers, Benjamin Staern will for the first time make orchestral versions of some of his greatest hits. There are so many things we would like to talk about, the collaboration with Mariam the Believer, the midnight Silent Concerts with Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Pauline Oliveros’ Tuning Meditation, in which we will ask all our audience to take part in or the serenity of D’un Soir Triste that the 24-year young Lili Boulanger wrote on her deathbed. To not forget Ravel’s out-of-this-world beautiful music.
The line-up this year mixes modern composition in Phillip Glass with classical like Bach and Tchaikovsky, is it important to have that mix?
We chose the name Gränslandet (the borderland) because we wanted to create a space where everything is allowed. Where it is ok to listen to everything from Ravel, Beethoven and Tchaikovski via Philip Glass and Pauline Oliveros El Perro del Mar, to Mariam the Believer and Ciwan Haco. An hour later you go clubbing and dancing to hip-hop or electronic music and after sweating for two hours on the dance floor you sit down with a pair of headphones with a drink and listen to the serenity of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
There are some 800 years of music history, there is so much music, good and bad. You like some things more and some less – it’s ok. For us Gränslandet is not only the meeting place for genres, but essentially a place where people of different backgrounds and perspectives can meet and experience great music together. To our festival, you come as you like, whoever you are or would like to be.
Is the main goal of Gränslandet to bring classical music into places it doesn’t traditionally occupy, as well as taking the music of pop artists like Mariam The Believer to places it wouldn’t normally go?
Of course one of the essential things we do is to bring classical music to a venue where it normally isn’t. For decades it’s been practically untouched land in terms of altering how the music is presented. Trädgården presents pop artists like Mariam the Believer or El Perro Del Mar all the time, but what is unique about Gränslandet is not only that they are joined by our symphony orchestra, but the music is presented alongside works by Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovski. For us the most important goal to create a space that is open and allows experiment. A kind of playground where you are free to play with whatever comes to your mind.
Photo: Nadja Sjöström