Commissioned by Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Olari Elts


Olari Elts, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra



Sub category

Large Orchestra




6—9 min.





Album Great Maestros XX. Scroll over Beethoven. Neeme Järvi. Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.

First performed

10 September 2021, Estonia Concert Hall, by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Olari Elts

Program notes

The Firehearted is commission from ENSO and Olari Elts – for whom the piece is dedicated as well –, was supposed to be performed during the 2020/21 but due to hectic times, it is performed today. The composer has written about the composition as follows: at the end of 2019, Olari Elts commissioned a new piece, it was originally supposed to be performed during the 2020/21 season, the season marking the 250th birthday of Beethoven. The themes of string instruments in The Firehearted are largely from the overture of Beethoven’s Leonore (Fidelio). [ENSO also planned a concert performance of Beethoven’s opera last season, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. – Liisi Laanemets, ENSO] Nevertheless, in the spring of 2020, the coronavirus crisis arrived, and it was me who was holding up the progress because my personal arrangements turned out to be different than planned. However, I was able to start working on it. Back in June, I was beginning to think that maybe I would be able to finish it by the opening concert of the season. As I already had a theme that I was working on and due to a lack of time, it seemed appropriate to continue and finish what I had started. At one point it seemed that my theme of wind instruments on Beethoven’s material was not enough, so I started adding these more abrupt sections. Surprisingly, the title and the material with these mixed sections characterises accurately how ERSO performed Beethoven during the season – in the midst of crisis and confusion, but consistently, even if performing to an empty hall.

“Among the younger generation of composers, Elis Hallik (born in 1986) has achieved particular international success. Hallik studied at the Estonian Academy of Music with Helena Tulve and Toivo Tulev, followed by further studies at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Lyon, France. She has achieved much success in France, with her pieces performed by L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and featuring in the Manifeste Festival organized by Paris’ IRCAM.
Her chamber work To Become a Tree premiered in 2016 at the International Summer Academy Festival at Vienna’s mdw, written for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. Each instrument seems to exist in its own sonic world, and the piece explores the idea of communication, collaboration, and co-existence inspired by the idea of symbiosis in nature. It begins with all instruments in their upper register before descending into the threatening depths of the bass clarinet, a slow downward glide brings the piece to an abrupt end.
Written amidst the coronavirus pandemic, The Firehearted eventually premiered in 2021. Originally commissioned as part of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra’s Beethoven programme, it draws upon themes from Beethoven’s Leonore overture. Beethoven comes in and out of focus, amplified and distorted by rumbling percussion crashes. It’s witty and somewhat disconcerting, as if seeing Beethoven through a magnifying lens, and displays Hallik’s virtuoso orchestral writing at its most dazzling.” Kevin W Ng , Bachtrack
“In regards to the new works, Elis Hallik’s The Firehearted, which was performed at ERSO’s opening concert, also left a very deep impression. The conceptual idea of the work is similar to Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia, where well-known pieces of music are embedded in the original work. Hallik has combined her work with Beethoven’s opening movement from Leonore, which in its unaltered form shines, sometimes less and sometimes more, through complex language of sound, and in doing so forms such an exciting and witty work, one that has inadvertently also become programmatic due to these confusing times. Namely, the composer’s spouse finds that The Firehearted reflects how Beethoven’s music was performed during the season in the midst of the crisis and confusion – even in an empty hall. I very much hope that this work will be performed again soon, because one hearing alone will definitely not suffice.” Äli-Ann Klooren, Sirp