Joy and creativity can't be held down forever, so even in the darkest decades of cruel oppression that spread from Soviet Russia through Eastern Europe in the 20th century, music bloomed and imaginations flew. Humour, black as some of it may have been, also thrived. This was life, as the Russians like to say, "laughing through tears".
Estonian Arvo Pärt is one of the most performed and influential living composers. In his deeply loved work Tabula Rasa, for two violins, prepared piano and orchestra, he extends "small steps of tolerance to the world", seeking spirituality and independence through silence and harmony.
Meanwhile, within Russia, Shostakovich and Prokofiev represented two still hotly contested strands: the supposed collaborators and the resisters. Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony in C minor, a signature piece for the virtuosic ACO, was a lament for victims of fascism and war, but also an act of self-reflection whose movements evolve from elegy and brutal force into acceptance and farewell.
Resistance will be whispered, literally, during Saariaho's Nymphéa: Misterioso. The short piece by the Finnish composer, whose country has always had a complicated and delicate relationship with its large neighbour, Russia, includes a poem by the great 20th-century Russian poet, Arseny Tarkovsky, which will be whispered by members of the Orchestra.