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Opening the season of the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic with Vadim Repin

After the summer I had no less than three chances to open my 2014-15 concert season. My first concert after the long and well deserved summer break was with the Swedish pianist Martin Malmgren (for him it was probably the end of his summer festival season, since his concert was one in the series of "The summer's young artists"). It was essentially a piano recital but Martin wanted to include one work for a larger ensemble, and that was Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 2. He had invited a wonderful group of musicians to perform the piece with us - some of them still students at the Sibelius Academy, some of them seasoned orchestra professionals. After the concert we had the chance to test the sauna facilities of the Helsinki Music Center! Hindemith is a composer I like a lot, so I of course enjoyed working with this music, and we luckily have some plans to perform more of it together with Martin. I was also happy to have this kind of "soft landing" back to work before I went on to conduct longer programs.

In Mikkeli I opened my concert season with St. Michel Strings, and for that occasion we had invited a number of extras to be able to perform the First Brandenburg Concerto of Johann Sebastian Bach. This, of course, was part of my Brandenburg cycle which I started exactly one year ago. Our program was heavy on Bach, since we also played his Orchestral Suite No. 1 and Arvo Pärt's Collage über B-A-C-H. We finished the night with the wonderful Symphony No. 17 by Mozart. It was great to work with my own orchestra again after the summer, and I was happy that our audience welcomed us warmly as well. We rewarded their applause by playing the Air from Bach's 3rd Orchestral Suite as an encore.

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At work with Vadim Repin and the Krasnoyarsk Symphony Orchestra

After Mikkeli I headed way more east for a very pleasant invitation. The Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic had invited me to open their season with a dream program - Shostakovich Festive Overture, Bruch Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin as soloist, and Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony. Krasnoyarsk lies in the southern edge of Siberia, nested approximately between Kazakhstan and Mongolia - you get the picture! To fly there I had to make a stop at Moscow, and there I stayed at my friend Ivan Velikanov, who is a young Russian conductor specializing in early music. From Moscow I had to fly five more hours towards east, before I reached Krasnoyarsk.

Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic has several ensembles and artists working for them, and one of the ensembles is the 105-strong Krasnoyarsk Symphony Orchestra. They perform in the Great Hall of the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic, which has recently undergone an acoustical renovation, and to me the working acoustics felt really good. I also heard no complaints from my colleagues listening to the rehearsals and the concert. Our rehearsals went on in a very productive atmosphere, and despite having a flu I felt energized after every rehearsal.

For me it was a real honour to perform the pieces by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky with a Russian orchestra. I studied this music a long time ago as a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and the basis of my way of hearing this music comes from my professor Leonid Korchmar. I of course have heard great interpretations of the pieces, first and foremost by Yevgeny Mravinsky, but nevertheless I was intrigued to see how a Russian orchestra would accept the way I, as a Finn, would approach these pieces. Luckily I felt early on in the rehearsals that they accept my point.

A day before the concert I was joined by our violin soloist, Vadim Repin. I had worked with him just once before, and that time in capacity of an assistant conductor, but I was very happy that he remembered me well and we could just jump at work right away. Repin must be one of the easiest soloists to work with - everything he asked from me and the orchestra was very logical and appealed to my musicality. We seemed to instantly find the same wavelength. After our rehearsal together we were rushed into a press conference where I also had an opportunity to exercise my Russian some more!

The concert itself we played for a sold-out hall, and on top of that there was a live webcast which could be seen from all over the world - several of my friends abroad managed to watch it as well. The best compliment of the season so far I received from a violinist who had come all the way from St. Petersburg to hear the concert. "That was real Tchaikovsky!" he exclaimed when he appeared backstage after the concert. I left Krasnoyarsk with warm impressions and will be happy to return there later this year.