Chopin second piano concerto with Seong-Jin Cho and the Sofia Philharmonic

My last concert this season was my debut in Bulgaria with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. I did not have any prior knowledge of this orchestra, nor had I ever visited Bulgaria before, but I was very excited to go there after recommendation by the great Bulgarian violinist Svetlin Roussev. One funny detail was the fact that the first rehearsal day would be my birthday, so I decided I will celebrate it with great music doing my favorite thing (conducting) and relaxing in the warm climate (after the horribly cold and rainy Finnish spring) and maybe enjoying the delicious local cuisine.

Despite some problems with rerouted flights I got a great start with the orchestra from day one (or maybe they were just extra polite on my birthday). The rest of the week was equally enjoyable, and I cannot recall the last time when the chemistry between myself and the orchestra was this good. On the plate I had the 2nd symphony of Jean Sibelius, which used to be my favorite symphony alongside Mozart 40 when I was young, and I still love it. After some further flight trouble my piano soloist Seong-Jin Cho - the winner of the 2015 Chopin competition - arrived in town, and we enjoyed similarly easy rapport while working on Chopin's 2nd piano concerto.

Exhausted but happy. Finishing my season on a high note in Sofia.

I was a bit concerned when some musicians told me that late June is not a popular season for orchestra concerts, but to my astonishment the hall was totally packed come concert time. Seong-Jin Cho had to play two encores before the audience let him go after the Chopin concerto. The second half with Sibelius was full of great moments, and it was actually also webcast in an experiment to try out the equipment before the next season's launch of Sofia Philharmonic's official regular webcasts.

Saying goodbye to the orchestra was very emotional after such a triumph to end my concert season. Luckily I am coming back to the Sofia Philharmonic in two years of time, and back to conduct in Bulgaria already next season!