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Monday 15 January 2018

Helsinki Metropolitan Orchestra - the new group in town!

HMO performing in the New Pavillion in Kauniainen

You may remember the concert last summer I wrote about, where 60 enthusiastic musicians from Helsinki region joined me in a free concert in the Rock Church in Helsinki. Then we had the project name of SMO and we did not know whether this project will be a one-off or there will be more concerts. Well, now I am happy to announce that we have a new name for our group, Helsinki Metropolitan Orchestra, we have registered a non-profit to support it, and we played two well attended concerts around New Year with 70 players onstage, one in Kauniainen and the second one in Helsinki.

For the program we decided to repeat the Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concerto which my friend Alina played last summer, and following the wishes of our musicians we played Sibelius symphony No. 5 in the second half. Even though our group is a mix of professionals, music students and amateurs (much like Benjamin Zander's Boston Philharmonic), our pace of rehearsing is professional, and we aim to play on a professional level. The rehearsal process was quite exciting, but everything came together marvelously for the concerts. Especially the second concert in my former place of study, the Helsinki Conservatory, left everyone happy both in the orchestra and in the audience (and the party afterwards was great!).

With HMO and Alina Sorjonen after Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto

There are many exciting plans in the future for this group - I am going to teach an international conducting masterclass with them in February, then we are going to play some opera in May, in the summer we make another series of summer concerts, and there are even plans to record and to tour. Since the group started so organically we are still in the beginning stages of figuring out all the tasks and responsibilities needed to make these projects happen. Luckily we have managed to gather a board for our non-profit, and with Alina taking the huge responsibility of being the general manager, or "intendant" of the orchestra, and me in the much easier role of Artistic Director we are now on a steady way to success. I will keep you posted about the coming plans for the Helsinki Metropolitan Orchestra, so check back soon!

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Finland 100 years at the Mariinsky Theatre

Celebrating Finnish music at the Mariinsky Concert Hall

The highlight of my fall season was returning to the Mariinsky Theatre, and since we are celebrating this year 100 years of independent Finland, I could plan a completely Finnish program. We opened the concert with Lemminkäinen's Return from the Four Lemminkäinen Legends by Jean Sibelius, and then a young Japanese-American violinist Mayumi Kanagawa played the Sibelius violin concerto. The second half was Einojuhani Rautavaara's 7th symphony "Angel of Light", which I wanted to include to commemorate the composer's passing away a bit more than a year ago.

We had a very short and intense rehearsal period with the orchestra, and I was happy to see them like Rautavaara so much. Another happy surprise was, that the hall was sold out. St. Petersburg public seems to be curious about Finnish music! I was also happy about the record number of my personal friends who decided to attend this concert in St. Petersburg - some of them even came all the way from Finland.

Surprise debut in Vladikavkaz


Since the beginning of September this year the Vladikavkaz opera theare and its orchestra have been part of the "Mariinsky brand". This is the town where Valery Gergiev spent his childhood, and that's why he has emotional ties to the city. And I think that is the main reason behind this theatre becoming a filial of the Mariinsky Theatre. I had the pleasure to travel to this beautiful part of Russia and conduct my debut there. It all happened very fast. Just two weeks prior I was asked if I am available for an "all Mozart concert" and the final confirmation came just one week before.

The orchestra performs symphonic concerts in a former catholic church which has been renovated and made into a concert hall which seats approximately 300 people. Their opera theatre has also undergone a recent renovation, but I had no time to check it out. Our program was "Impresario" overture, violin concerto No. 3 with a local young soloist Ilya Bekoev, and symphony No. 39. The theatre did a great job on advertising, there were big posters all around town, and the hall was full of enthusiastic public (I even gave autographs after the concert). The day after the concert I had some free time and could go out of town to see the Caucasus mountains a bit closer by. I hope to visit this beautiful region many more times.

Season opening and rap (!) in Pärnu

Opening the Pärnu City Orchestra season with Mendelssohn "Scottish"

After returning from Siberia, my next concert was the season opening of Pärnu City Orchestra. I had as my soloist a brilliant young soprano Pelageya Kurennaya, who sang Mozart's concert aria "Bella mia fiamma" and Gliere's concerto for coloratura soprano. The second half of the concert was Mendelssohn's "Scottish" symphony - a work which brings back many memories, since I learned it from Kurt Masur who passed away two years ago.


Two weeks later I returned to Pärnu for something very different - a concert aimed at youth where the main attraction was the Estonian rapper Kapa! He is clearly very popular in Estonia, because we had a full hall. The orchestra was in string formation, and we were augmented with a band and backing tracks also. In between the rap songs (are they songs?) we performed John Adams' classic Shaker Loops, a work I have been waiting for long time to perform.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Krasnoyarsk - my new musical home 5000 km from home!


I can finally publish the news that I have known since April but had to keep under wraps until the season opening in Krasnoyarsk - I now have a new musical home after my appointment as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Krasnoyarsk Symphony Orchestra! In this capacity I will visit Krasnoyarsk four times a year, each time conducting one subscription concert and other projects which might be chamber orchestra concerts, school or family concerts or special events.

This week was very busy for me in Krasnoyarsk, and besides rehearsing the orchestra for the grand opening (with two orchestras and three conductors on stage!) I had to speak Russian live on radio together with the two other conductors, give an interview to the new newspaper of the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic, appear in front of TV cameras right after my performance of Sibelius Karelia Suite, not to mention a lot of planning and brainstorming with the Chief Conductor Vladimir Lande. The season opening was covered on TV channel Yenisei by Oleg Suslov, and I was very flattered about what he had to say about my work - watch it yourself if you know Russian.

This was my fourth visit to Krasnoyarsk, and every time I have enjoyed the good atmosphere in the rehearsals and the warm and enthusiastic public in my concerts. I am very happy to now return to Siberia more often. My next projects in Krasnoyarsk will be in January, 2018 (it might be cold!).

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