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Tuesday 14 October 2008

Photo (and video) updates

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I am finally in Finland at my table top computer and thus able to update some photos to accompany my reports from Italy, France and Germany! After the competition I went to Paris and heard three interesting concerts: The Turangalîla Symphony performed by the Orchestre de Radio France, a concert by the Chamber Orchestra of Cologne (they have one Finnish violoncellist!) and a concert by Orchestre National de France with Alexander Toradze (the smiling guy above) as their piano soloist playing the Shostakovich piano concerto No. 1. Now I have some days of rest before my rehearsals with Saimaa Sinfonietta will start.

14.10.2008 Beethovenfest photos updated!
14.10.2008 I found a video clip of Leif Segerstam conducting!
26.10.2008 some photos added to Pedrotti competition entries.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Visit to the Beethovenhaus

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The plaque on the outside wall of Beethovenhaus. Unfortunately taking photographs inside the building was not allowed!

The festival has gone well, and today is our last concert, the 8th and 9th symphonies of Beethoven. The audience here has been really fantastic and they really love maestro Masur. The orchestra has played great as well!

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Maestro Masur at the courtyard of Beethovenhouse, exchanging thoughts with the Master...

This morning I made a visit to the Beethovenhaus on the Bonngasse. It is the house where Ludwig van Beethoven was born, and it was saved from demolition by a group of citizens of Bonn who bought the property and transformed it into a museum.

Today there is not only the museum but also a chamber music hall and Beethoven-archives of Bonn.

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The attic room where Beethoven was born - on the outside

The museum was full of interesting things: Manuscript pages, early editions, letters, notebooks, sketches, leaves from Beethoven's conversation books etc. His viola was there on display as well (he earned a living as a viola player in Bonn opera before moving to Vienna at age of 22), as well as other instruments owned by him.

Most emotional sight was the room where the great man was born. It was a tiny attic room. Next to it was the death mask of Beethoven as well as another plaster cast of his face at age of approximately forty. There was the beginning, the maturity, and the end all in the same spot. It made me think how we all have a humble beginning, but what great potential there is in every child!

UPDATE 14.10.2008: More photos from the festival below!

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Before the final concert with my colleague Carlos Dourthe

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The ONF in concert with Maestro Masur

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In the same concert Kurt Masur was awarded the "Furtwänglerpreis"

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The Choir of Radio France before the 9th symphony

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After the performance, soprano Melanie Diener, alto Carolin Masur, tenor Christian Elsner, baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann and the chorus master Matthias Brauer

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Looking Back at the Conducting Year 2007

New Year 2008

On the first day of 2008 it is nice to look back at the events of the past year! My year was so exhausting and eventful - I had some 15 concert performances in Finland, Russia and USA, took part in 3 international conducting competitions, took part in two master classes, organized some myself, and won an audition in France! Anyway the thing I am most happy about is the fact that this year I quit my day jobs (sorry all ex-colleagues!) and became a full-time professional conductor! I had felt for some time already that working weekly with young students and amateurs was holding back my progress (a topic for a whole post later, I can assure). Now, though financially much more insecure, I feel better because I am able to concentrate 100% in becoming a better conductor!

Even though not a full-time position, the assistantship I won with maestro Kurt Masur and the Orchestre National de France was the most important single factor in making my decision. And the encouragement I got from maestro Yuri Simonov on his masterclass kind of sealed it off! I am forever grateful to both of them, and to a big bunch of other people, including my conducting teachers in Finland and Russia, my supportive friends and colleagues, and my family of course.

The coming year seems, if possible, even more interesting and challenging than the previous one. Some concerts have already been planned, and I have applied to a couple of competitions too. On top of that I have to settle in a completely new environment and learn a new language! I foresee a lot of hard work, but I am sure with that I will also reap a lot of rewards and be wiser and richer at the end of the road!

Summarizing my Conducting Year 2007

JANUARY
3 children's concerts with Pori Sinfonietta, Kapsäkki, Petri Ikkelä and Kosti Kotiranta. 2 concerts with Saimaa Sinfonietta (combined Lappeenranta and Mikkeli orchestras), soloist Olli-Pekka Tuomisalo.

FEBRUARY
Diploma concert with Pori Sinfonietta, soloist Olli Leppäniemi. Master class and concert with the Orchestra of the Estonian Defence Forces.

MARCH
Opera gala of the Sibelius Academy conducting class, soloist Hedvig Paulig. Singing in the choir for Sibelius Academy 125-year jubilee concert. Audition at Radio France for the assistantship with Kurt Masur at the Orchestre National de France.

APRIL
Mostly studying, plus some choral singing with Veli-Antti's choir and orchestra...

MAY
Concert with Finnish Guards Orchestra, soloist Eero Saunamäki. Concert at the 4th Nordic Music Festival, with Hermitage orchestra and Kari Kriikku. Evgeny Svetlanov Conducting Competition in Luxembourg.

JUNE
Hot Springs Music Festival in USA.

JULY
Yuri Simonov Master Class in Budapest, Hungary.

AUGUST
Working at "Hausmusikwoche". Organizing a Master Class for maestro Leonid Korchmar.

SEPTEMBER
Lovro von Matacic competition in Zagreb, Croatia.

OCTOBER
A project with a flute ensemble, preparing for Fitelberg competition...

NOVEMBER
Fitelberg competition in Katowice, Poland.

DECEMBER
A concert in Petrozavodsk, Russia. Two concerts with St Michel Strings, in Hirvensalmi and Mikkeli.

Friday 28 December 2007

Xmas Concerts in Mikkeli and Hirvensalmi

I am so late with my concert reports, but what the heck, it's Holiday Time! So, exactly one week ago I came back from Mikkeli where I worked with the St Michel Strings. It is a 12-member string ensemble which sometimes performs on their own, sometimes with a guest conductor. This time they wanted to make a Xmas concert with a choir and an organ soloist, so they had to use a conductor. And I am happy that their choice was me!

I worked with some of these players last January, when Lappeenranta City Orchestra joined forces with them to play a very difficult program under my baton. That co-operation was a resounding success, and this invitation was one good thing resulting from that concert.

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Organist and chorus master Matti-Veikko Kuusi

This time I did not only have rehearsals with the orchestra, but had rehearsals with the choir as well! Mikkeli Oratory Choir is a 40-strong amateur ensemble which sings a couple of concerts a year. Organist and chorus master Matti-Veikko Kuusi had rehearsed two Buxtehude works (Magnificat and Das neugeborne Kindelein) with them over the past couple of months and I took over two days before our first concert. I have to admit, it was more than a year since I last worked with a choir, but everything went well and the choir made a big progress in a matter of few days!

The program also included some instrumental music: Xmas Concerto by Giuseppe Valentini, Organ Concerto in B-flat Major by Händel (soloist Matti-Veikko Kuusi) and Allelui and Fugue by Allan Hovhaness. I especially enjoyed conducting Hovhaness - a new name for me, even though he had a close relationship with our Sibelius!

We performed the program twice. The first concert was played in the small Hirvensalmi church, where we had to fit the orchestra around the organ at the organ loft, and put the chorus on the side balcony! Poor singers could not rely on what they heard because of the distance, but with a little extra concentration the concert went surprisingly well. The second concert was on their "home ground", the St Michel's Cathedral in Mikkeli. The church was packed with people and everything sounded great!

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Singers of the Mikkeli Oratory Choir after a successful concert

I really enjoyed working both with the orchestra and the choir. We had a very short and condensed rehearsal period and the program was nice and short and not too difficult. I am interested to see what happens if I get a chance to conduct something more challenging with the St Michel Strings in the future!

Sunday 23 December 2007

Guest Conducting the Karelian State Philharmonic Orchestra

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The Philharmonic in Petrozavodsk. Not much unlike the cultural palace in Tambov where I conducted last year...

My trip to Petrozavodsk, to guest conduct the Karelian State Philharmonic Orchestra was really exciting. Not many people in Finland know this orchestra even though it is so close by! Of course it is not so easy to get there - I had to sit in a "taxi" for 13 hours to get there from my home in southern Finland!

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Orchestra's solo cellist discussing with administrator Olga Palchikova at the philharmonic office

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The concert hall from the inside

This orchestra is the only full-size (60 members) symphonic orchestra in the Karelian Republic, Russia, and it resides in the capital Petrozavodsk (280 000 inhabitants). In Petrozavodsk there are still a couple of thousand Finns and Karelian-speakers (a Fenno-Ugric language as well). I myself am a 1/4 Karelian so this trip was especially interesting to me. On this trip I spoke Finnish with only three people though...

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Musicians arriving to the rehearsal

The orchestra works 4 or 5 days a week, and the rehearsal is quite short, only 3 hours. I had 4 days of rehearsals and the dress rehearsal and concert on Saturday. I am used to fewer but longer rehearsals, so I did not always manage to use my time maximally efficiently, and unfortunately this happened at the expense of the symphony (Sibelius 5th). On the other hand the solo pieces (Debussy Rhapsody for clarinet and orchestra and Grieg Piano Concerto) came out fantastic. Next time I will be more wary of the time and also can take better into account the strengths and weaknesses of this particular orchestra.

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My soloist for the Grieg piano concerto, Aleksandr Onkin

I really enjoyed working with the orchestra and the administration, and made many new friends in the city! The best thing is I am going back to conduct them again already in January! In Finland I mostly work with chamber orchestras, so I am really looking forward to the possibility to conduct some "big things" in Karelia in the coming years.

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