Conducting Misa a Buenos Aires in Riom, France

While I'm writing this I have already started my season 2013-14 in Finland, so I owe my readers the usual apologies and excuses. But, really, my summer was quite exhausting! I'll try to summarize all the fun and interesting things that happened.

After I had wrapped up my season with St. Michel Strings, my next destination was France, where I haven't worked since 2010. My dear friend and colleague Roberto Forés Veses had invited me to his orchestra in Auvergne, and we were booked to perform at the Festival Piano a Riom. I was working a bit outside my comfort zone with this program, since the theme of the concert was tango (!), and the first half consisted of Piazzolla pieces while the second half was Misa a Buenos Aires by Martin Palmeri performed together with the Choeur Regional d'Auvergne - also in the tango idiom! My excellent soloists for Piazzolla were William Sabatier on bandoneon and Oswaldo Calo on piano. The beautiful mezzo soprano for Palmeri was Séverine Maquaire.

This concert was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the warm working atmosphere at the orchestra. Also the chorus did an excellent job! After the concert I was greeted with a surprise birthday party - it was ten days early so I was really surprised! I left Auvergne with warm feelings and having made many new friends, and I am really hoping to come back at some point! After that I spent a couple of days in Paris, where my planned holiday changed into sitting at Salle Pleyel all day long... I simply could not miss seeing the rehearsals of Andrey Boreyko with Orchestre de Paris and Claudio Abbado with his Orchestra Mozart while I had the chance! I also managed to see Abbado's concert with my resourceful friend Marlon Chen.

Speaking at the Conductors Guild conference in St. Louis, USA

My next trip was across the Atlantic to attend the Conductors Guild Conference in St. Louis. I gave a presentation there under the title "The Role of the Assistant Conductor". I will at some point write more on this topic, since it is one of the trickiest positions for a young conductor to learn his ropes. I also presented some new Finnish scores at the event and mentored my younger colleagues, but most importantly I had a chance to catch up with so many American friends and colleagues. The best thing about Conductors Guild is that there you can meet your peers, which is a welcome change to the lonely everyday business of conducting. Before returning to Finland I made a quick detour to Chicago and managed to catch a rehearsal and a concert of Riccardo Muti and the CSO.

Opening the Gergiev Festival in Mikkeli, Finland

In Finland I did not have any time to rest, because I had to start rehearsals leading to the Gergiev Festival in Mikkeli with St. Michel Strings. My ensemble had been entrusted the honor of opening the Gergiev Festival, and I wanted us to be in good shape for it! For this concert we had a guest concert master, Jukka Merjanen from the Finnish National Opera, and he was really a pleasure to work with throughout the week. I cannot forget his beautiful solos in the Lover (Rakastava) by Sibelius.

After we had played our part at the festival I finally had some time for myself, and I visited first the Savonlinna Opera Festival (where I debuted a year ago) to listen to some opera rehearsals and meet with friends, and then I returned to Mikkeli to hear some more concerts by Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra. It is a small wonder that Gergiev returns to Finland year after year already for twenty years. And I hope the festival stays alive and well at least for another twenty years!

Oh, and then there was the trip to South Korea for the 10th Great Mountains Music Festival! But that deserves its own blog post...