Miracle

 

For orchestra
2020

 

Duration
20 min.

 

Instrumentation
3333 4331 12 1, pno, strings
or
2222 3221 12 1, pno, strings

 

Commissioned by
Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle

 

Premiere by
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Hannu Lintu
May 28 2021
Helsinki, Finland

In the summer of 2019, the idea of something big, unexpected and wonderful struck me – the idea of Miracle.

When I started composing Miracle in the spring of 2020, the pandemic was taking over the world. A few days into composing, the tragedy hit close as we learned that a family member fell ill with the disease. A week later she was gone.

Alongside me sadness, longing, and trauma, and on the other hand the feeling of great love and the strength, presence, life and empowerment it gives, I wrote Miracle.

The piece begins with ’a hunch’, a sense that something is about to happen. Everything is seemingly innocent and fine, but something threatening seems to try reach the surface. The steady ticking of the strings reflects time, anticipation, and an oppressive sense of moving inexorably towards something unknown, something that cannot be stopped. The rapid gestures of individual instruments and groups of instruments reflect animals that intuitively sense the danger and flee.

Then comes ’the shock’ – something unexpected, traumatic and harrowing that cuts everything off and shatters your whole being to the point of numbness.

Then the lamenting sorrow, emptiness and pain. Reverberations and processing of the trauma. The yearning, nostalgia and longing for love.

But love invites hope, and melancholy gradually turns into healing. Healing brings gratitude, joy and a desire to move forward in life and to experience happiness again.

Empowerment eventually leads to euphoria. A sense of something greater, something marvellous, uncontrollable and unexplainable. The joy and celebration of life, the dance and ascension.

The piece ends in finding peace. In accepting that something has changed permanently, and the trace of it follows. The majestic chords reflect strength and powerlessness in the face of something greater, the same feeling as standing on the edge of a cliff. The brass chorale in the end reflects a connection to the past and the memory that never fades – the memory of love.

Past performances

May 28 2021
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Hannu Lintu
Music Centre
Helsinki, Finland

Sheet Music

Schott Music
Schott Music GmbH & Co. KG
Weihergarten 5
55116 Mainz
info@schott-music.com
+49 6131 246-0

Press Quotes

“Sebastian Hilli’s Miracle is original and thoroughly honest music for our time

From collapse to euphoria

The most phenomenal achievement, however, was Sebastian Hilli in the commissioned work Miracle (2020), of which the creation coincides with a personal tragedy; the loss of a family member due to covid-19. Hilli, however, is not the one who buries himself into sorrow or unnecessarily wallows in self-pity and after the orchestral collapse, the music gradually works its way up to brighter, even euphoric views leading to the realization that nothing is as it used to be, but that life is still worth living.

Above all, Hilli is not the one who repeats himself unnecessarily, and although the choice of work title can appear as if not directly presumptuous, then at least slightly pretentious, perhaps even a bit kitschy, in the end it is exactly a miracle it’s all about.

The brocade of style influences and allusions, from popular music to avant-garde, Hilli weaves together over the course of twenty minutes is way too abundant and intricately designed to be verbalized in this space and it strikes me that the whole discussion of modernism versus conservatism, difficult and easily accessible, tonal and atonal, in this particular case feels unusually meaningless, blunt in purpose and meaning.

This music does not sound like anything else I have heard before – how often do you have reason to say this about a piece by a 30-year-old composer? – and even if I could possibly think of a Kimmo Hakola or an Anders Hillborg accomplishing something in that direction, the Hillian expression feels completely original, meaningful, fresh and, not least, thoroughly honest. This is the music of our time in all its glory, where everything is allowed for those who are up for the challenge.”
Mats Liljeroos, HBL, May 29 2021

 

“As good as the music offered throughout the evening was, Sebastian Hilli’s novelty became the main course. He has already proven in the past that he masters the apparatus of a large orchestra and has found his own voice as a fuser of various style influences. This time, his music also took on an even more personal and heart-rending tone, as during Miracle’s composing process, the illness caused by the coronavirus became the fate of his family member.

This background is heard in the music, however Hilli hasn’t written any corona monument whatsoever but rather elevated personal emotions to the universal by shaping the arc of an impressive drama. It begins with a steady rhythmic ticking that describes the passage of time and everyday life. Then comes more and more ominous hunches and fearful stops.

After the disaster, emptiness follows. The low brass sonorities with the trombone glissandos sound the bottomlessness of grief, and the orchestra reflects the echoes of silence. Then, from the state of paralysis, a rhythmic movement begins to rise, as if a stagnant clock came to life. It circulates from one instrument to another and gets increasingly swinging twists until the drive accelerates to truly wild.

The suction is so organic that the listener is caught up in the process of liberation completely. The repeated rewinding of notes is reminiscent of minimalism, and the grandness of the chords and chorales at times brings to mind even Messiaen’s apotheoses of love. Quite some comparisons, but Hilli carries out everything so sincerely and seriously that no quoting even comes to mind.

Lintu and the FRSO expressed the work with passion, and Beethoven’s Second Symphony was played with the wings of optimism risen from the work.”
Harri Kuusisaari, Rondo, May 29 2021

Listen

The premiere of Miracle, performed by Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hannu Lintu: