I have just survived the busiest month+ of conducting in my life, so please forgive me again for not updating this blog! But unfortunately being a free lance conductor is like this - there might be no work for weeks and suddenly everyone wants you at the same time! And if you refuse an engagement you risk finding yourself at the bottom of the stack next time... Well here's the whole story!

After returning from Aspen I could take it easy for a couple of weeks, go to some nice concerts (Alexander Vedernikov in Turku, Leif Segerstam with Tapiola) and hear my friend Paolo Fanale sing "Cosi" at the Finnish National Opera. But then it was back to work full force.

I was assigned to assist Kurt Masur and the Orchestre National de France in Paris in a program consisting of full Egmont incidental music by Beethoven, and Brahms violin concerto with Vadim Repin. But before that I had to launch rehearsals for Paavo Heininen Quintet, Op. 7, an extremely difficult work from the crazy 60's. It had been only performed once with disastrous results, and no-one had dared to touch the work for almost fifty years! It was time for payback!

After a couple of days of rehearsing I left for Paris just on time to hear Chicago Symphony perform with Haitink. People always talk about Chicago brass players but oh my god what a tight string section! They played a fantastic Bruckner seventh.

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With Maestro Masur my job description seems to be getting more and more varied. This time I had to write some horn parts for the Egmont overture as well as do some other music librarian duties... We had beautiful Mélanie Diener singing the two songs and Ulrich Tukur narrating the final number of Egmont incidental music. Beautiful piece by the way! The concert at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees was sold out so I myself was not sure I could find a seat, but luckily I got help from above...

I also saw Christoph Eschenbach conduct Orchestre de Paris - the very first time I saw him live. What a power - one might be tempted to think that he has mastered the use of dark side of the Force!

When I got back to Finland the first thing was a funeral gig with the wind band I used to play in a long time ago. The tuba player of the group had passed away after a long illness. With wind bands it is a tradition that the band comes to play in the important occasions of the band members' lives, like weddings, anniversaries and, yes, funerals.

The next week was hellish - I had one concert on Thursday and another concert in different town and with different repertoire on Friday, and both had a set of four rehearsals. I was practically rehearsing from dusk till dawn every single day of the week!

First concert was a great success - the composer Paavo Heininen was present at the concert to hear how we resurrected his 50-year old piece from the dead. Afterwards he described his feelings with words "I feel like I was a political prisoner who now has been set free!" Can a musician get a more beautiful compliment, really? The attitudes towards playing modern music has really changed in recent times, so maybe only now time was right for this piece to come to existence.

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The next day's concert was no less important. It was the first performance of Kalevi Aho's new work "Historical Scenes", which was commissioned for the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Finnish Council of State. I traveled to the old Finnish capital, Turku, with 30 musicians from the Sibelius Academy, and we performed this with three presidents (!) and the whole political elite in attendance. The funny part was, that we had to play this piece in pseudo-historical costumes!!! They were extremely hot and cumbersome to wear, but we looked kind of cool in them! The work itself was tailor-made (unlike the costumes) for this occasion in the form of promenade concert, where three chamber groups perform pastiches modeled after music from different centuries of Finnish music history, and the final movement with the orchestra fast forwards the 20th century in musical quotations and some free fantasy.

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After this marathon week I had one day of rest before flying to Vaasa up north. There I rehearsed the Vaasa City Orchestra for two days before embarking on a two week concert tour in towns along the western coast of Finland. We performed altogether 17 concerts for both Finnish and Swedish speaking school kids. I think we reached over 6000 people, most of whom had never before heard a symphony orchestra live! This was a really pleasant duty to me, and the orchestra seemed to enjoy the tour a lot too despite repeating the same programs over and over again. For one's conducting technique it does miracles to be able to conduct the same piece so many times in concert - it is almost like working in an opera production.

Now I have just a little bit of calm before my next trip. I cannot be lazy though - I have started my DMA (in conducting) studies at the Sibelius Academy and have to write some papers for that! Luckily the program at the Sibelius Academy is kind-of tailored to suit the life of a traveling artist. The idea of artistic doctorate training in Finland is totally different from what people do in American universities, for example. But I will write about that some other time...