Since its opening in January 2017, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg has been the cultural landmark of the city. The Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna has made her her new musical home, as Apkalna regularly performs in the Elbphilharmonie as titular organist and knows the spectacular Klais organ in the Great Hall like no other artist. Berlin Classics now presents the world premiere recording of a solo program on the Elbphilharmonie organ with titular organist Iveta Apkalna: "Light & Dark".
The program compiled by Apkalna contains music strongly influenced by Eastern Europe. At the centre is the title-giving work Hell and Dunkel by the Russian-born composer Sofia Gubaidulina, who lives near Hamburg. A wide sound panorama - shimmering figurations in highest tones and deep static, dark cluster clouds - shows the wide tonal range of the instrument. The album also features works by other composers who have influenced Iveta Apkalna and in some cases accompanied her personally on her musical path: Leos Janáček and his post studies from the Glagolitic Mass, the three Évocations by Apkalna's French organist colleague Thierry Escaich, the two Etudes for Organ by György Ligeti, the Passacaglia of the opera Lady Macbeth by Mzensk by Dmitri Shostakovich and two works by her compatriots Aivars Kalējs and Lūcija Garūta. The title of the album Light & Dark not only refers to the extremes. Even if an organ has black and white keys and the black console is embedded in the "White Skin" of the Elbphilharmonie: music consists not only of contrasts, but also of nuances. "This organ can do everything! It is warm and round, with many beautiful undertones coming from everywhere and from the depths. This sound embraces the people," says Iveta Apkalna after the very first rehearsal on the instrument.
The 4,765 pipes of the four-manual organ made by Johannes Klais Orgelbau extend over five audience seats in the Great Hall and are perfectly integrated into the unique architecture of the Elbphilharmonie. Some pipes can be touched by the visitors, and the particularly large-pored structure of the "White Skin" allows views into the interior of the organ, whose pipe material spreads over a room measuring 15 by 15 metres. Another special feature of the Elbphilharmonie organ is the remote work, which is mounted in the reflector high above the stage. Some 45 organ builders worked around 25,000 hours on the instrument. Their aim was "to reach people with a musical instrument that surprises in a modern outfit, touches body and soul and offers the warmth of a harmonious sound bath in the sea-fresh Hanseatic city," as Bernd Reinartz and Philipp Klais describe the approach to this project. The "harmonious sound bath" can be taken quite literally: At 16 hertz (16 vibrations per second), the largest pipe, more than 10 meters long, sounds deeper than a person is able to hear. Their sound is more perceptible as a muffled humming. The renowned workshop from Bonn also developed its OPUS in 1871 with a view to presenting contemporary music.
Contemporary repertoire, played on a forward-looking instrument - this fits perfectly with Iveta Apkalna's mission to further establish the organ as an instrument outside the ecclesiastical context. Numerous world premieres bear witness to her enthusiasm for contemporary music. Since Iveta Apkalna's concert with the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Claudio Abbado, she has appeared with leading orchestras such as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under the direction of such important conductors as Mariss Jansons, Sir Antonio Pappano, Gustavo Dudamel, Marek Janowski, Kent Nagano and Peter Eötvös. In March 2018 she was twice awarded the "Latvian Grand Music Award" in her home country in the categories "Musician of the Year" and "Concert of the Year". The Latvian Grand Music Award is Latvia's highest musical award.