It's again time for my usual apologies for not posting anything for almost two months. I really should get into the habit of posting really short entries, but more often! Since I was unable to do it, here is a summary of what I've been up to after my very short summer break.
First, in mid August I was invited to open the season of Kymi Sinfonietta just like last year. This time my soloist was the excellent young soprano Barbara Bordás from Budapest Operetta Theatre (here's a review for those of you who read Finnish). Then it was time to open my second season with St. Michel Strings, and that I did by conducting a joint concert with an orchestra from Lappeenranta, under the title Saimaa Sinfonietta. I made a short trip to Paris to hear my old colleagues at the Orchestre National de France, then returned to listen to my friend Tong Chen guest conduct my orchestra to a big success, after which I had the pleasure to conduct a Bach program in Tuusula, not far from my home. My second concert in Mikkeli this fall was with the organ virtuoso Kalevi Kiviniemi, and I really hope to perform with him soon again! I then flew to Chicago to enjoy Riccardo Muti's rehearsals and concerts with CSO to celebrate Verdi, and on the way back I made a stop in Manchester, UK, where I go regularly to teach and perform at the RNCM. After I got back home I slept one full day to charge my batteries (!), but luckily I now have a few weeks to rest and study my scores for the coming concerts.
Getting back to the headline of this blog entry, this season marks my tenth year conducting professional orchestras, so it is a kind of a jubilee for me! My professional debut took place in St. Petersburg, Russia in November 16, 2003 by the invitation of one of my teachers, Piotr Gribanov. I have such warm memories of that concert which took place at the Sheremetyevsky palace. The hall was so packed that people had to stand at the back because we ran out of seats… During the days leading to the concert I really learned a great deal about practicalities and psychology of the orchestra rehearsal, and big thanks goes to maestro Gribanov for being there during my two first rehearsals to give me feedback. My professor Leonid Korchmar also gave me fatherly advice after the concert, but he too was of the opinion that I was ready to embark on a professional career after seeing my success with the big and difficult program.
To celebrate this memory I am going to visit St. Petersburg in November and see the Sheremetyevsky palace once again and meet my old teachers. But I will also be celebrating it during my concert season by doing some special projects and revisiting repertoire I conducted during those early days (I opened the Kymi Sinfonietta concert with the Gypsy Baron overture by Strauss, which was the opening piece of my debut, and with Saimaa Sinfonietta I performed Haydn's symphony No. 99 which also was in my program back then). I will also be collaborating again with some of the soloists from those early years. Other ways of celebrating are starting a cycle of Brandenburg Concertos by J.S. Bach with St. Michel Strings as well as bringing my orchestra to perform in my home town Kerava. I'll try to keep my readers up to date as the jubilee year progresses!
During these ten years my view of the conducting profession has become somewhat less idealistic. I summarized my feelings in a post I named "My Way" three years ago, and I largely agree with that post still. I feel a bit sad that we are forced to think of classical music as "business", because for most of its existence it hasn't been anything like it, and thus the headline I gave to this post should be taken with a grain of salt as well. I truly am proud of the fact that I have ten years of experience working with professional orchestras, but in the current "business atmosphere" experience carries very little weight - unless you can boast, say, 50 years of experience in the field, but then you very likely belong to the conducting royalty anyway… But hey, here's to the next ten years! Cheers everyone!