I returned today to Mikkeli to start rehearsals with my orchestra St. Michel Strings for our performance at the Gergiev Festival this coming Friday, and since it's been a long time since I last updated my blog I thought I'd look back at what kind of things we were doing after Piotr Gribanov's concert and how we are keeping up with our plans to develop the orchestra in all fronts.

For my personal gratification and to celebrate my 10th season as a professional conductor I have been performing a cycle of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg concertos which are some of my most favorite music. In the beginning of April I could perform the 4th Brandenburg concerto with two old friends playing the flute parts, Annaleena Puhto who is the principal flute of the Tampere Philharmonic, and Eveliina Laine who is the sub-principal in Joensuu City Orchestra. We have a long history together since both of these lovely ladies used to study flute under my mother's guidance.

Later in April I could perform the 6th Brandenburg Concerto, and since we did not have viole da gambe at our disposal we did a "heretic" interpretation of the piece by substituting cellos for the gamba parts. I was happy to brush up my cello chops a bit and sit in the section next to my orchestra musicians to play one of the parts. In this program we also performed Pergolesi's Stabat Mater with Piia Komsi and Wivan Fagerudd in the vocal parts. What was even more important was the fact that this concert was our first ever live webcast from Mikkeli, and it was seen by over one thousand people from altogether seven countries. You can also see the Pergolesi online at www.e-concerthouse.com. We hope to do more of these webcasts in the future.

On April 27 we had the great honor to perform at the National Veterans Day celebrations which were televised nationwide. We played pieces by Sibelius and Haapalainen, as well as joined our forces with the Dragoon Guards Band for some patriotic music. The broadcast was seen by approximately 160 000 viewers which probably is the biggest audience we have had in Finland (last summer in South Korea we might have had bigger reach during the Great Mountains Music Festival).

Last but not least, our season finale in May was a huge success with our home audience, and a lot of it was due to the charm of our superb soloist, the Chinese violoncellist Jian Wang. During these two years I have not seen such a reaction from our politely reserved Finnish public. I hope we could continue the trend next season - both in the quality of the concerts and the numbers of listeners we could attract to Mikaeli.