Conductors and Orchestras

Eva Ollikainen

Eva Ollikainen (b. 1982) began her conductor’s training at the exceptional age of just three after attending an opera that completely captivated her. To pursue her career she started playing the piano, and by the age of 15 was already taking courses under Jorma Panula. While obtaining her Master’s degree in piano performance from the Sibelius Academy, she also studied in the conducting masterclass, from which she graduated in 2005. Ms Ollikainen threw herself into her work as an example of new Finnish super-talent, but after a few years grew tired of her hectic lifestyle, sold everything she owned and set sail for the Atlantic and the Southern Arctic. It was uncertain whether her career in music would ever continue. But as we now know, after two years’ absence Ms Ollikainen returned to music as a renewed, more mature artist who never compromises on the time she needs to study a score and develop a more profound understanding of the music. This season she will be appearing as a conductor with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Staatskapelle Dresden, among others, and begin her tenure as the Chief Conductor with the Nordiska Kammerorkestern. Ms Ollikainen, who will conduct the concerts of the Paulo Cello Competition, has herself received a career boost from music competitions by winning the Jorma Panula Conducting Competition in 2003. Although the concert pieces of the Paulo Cello Competition were composed for soloists and are being played in a competitive environment, Ms Ollikainen approaches the task like any other symphony concert. Ms Ollikainen was the recipient of the 2009 Hulda Paulo award, for which she remains most grateful.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra has been described as a ‘small-town wonder’. Its collaboration with the Swedish record company BIS was the first clear signal that its aspirations were no longer those of a provincial ensemble but were oriented towards the wider orchestral world, and the orchestra fulfilled many of its wildest dreams together with its principal conductor Osmo Vänskä (1988– 2008). Since the autumn of 2008 until the spring of 2011 the orchestra’s artistic advisor – and artistic director of the Sibelius Festival – was Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Since the autumn of 2011 until the spring of 2016 Okko Kamu was the orchestra’s principal conductor and the artistic director of the Festival, and in the autumn of 2016 Dima Slobodeniouk began his tenure in these positions. In the early 1990s various goals were set: to start touring internationally, to acquire a new concert hall and, by means of unconventional projects, to build a reputation for the orchestra as a ‘trailblazer with a difference’. Since 2000 the orchestra’s home has been the Sibelius Hall, known for its excellent acoustic. Numerous awards for the orchestra’s recordings have also opened the doors to an international arena. The orchestra’s first major tour to Japan took place in 1999, and that year it also made its successful début at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York. These successful performances gave rise to repeat invitations, and tour destinations have included the United States (January 2005) and Japan (2003, 2006 and 2015). The orchestra has performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, twice at the BBC Proms in London and at six concerts in the Musikverein in Vienna. In addition, it has given concerts in China, France, Spain, Poland and Belgium, and its performances have been warmly received by the international press. Alongside the music of Sibelius, the core of the orchestra’s work has been its collaboration with Kalevi Aho, composer-in-residence since 1992: among the works Aho has composed for the orchestra are five symphonies. The orchestra has also recorded a major part of Aho’s extensive orchestral output. Without exception these recordings have been favourably received by the international press, as indeed have almost all of the discs in the orchestra’s close collaboration with BIS Records, which now extends to some seventy recordings. In the autumn of 2009, international sales of the orchestra’s BIS recordings passed the million mark. Working with children and young people is an especially important aspect of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s work. For the past ten years, for example, the orchestra’s task forces have visited Lahti’s schools and day care centres, composing together with children as part of the project ‘Hei, me sävelletään!’.

Tapiola Sinfonietta

The Tapiola Sinfonietta – Espoo City Orchestra – is known for its broad and diverse repertoire and also for performances without a conductor. The orchestra’s sound reflects the close and profound interaction of its musicians. Founded in 1987, the Tapiola Sinfonietta has grown from a string ensemble to a Viennese Classical orchestra with 43 members. Unlike most Finnish orchestras, artistic planning is done by the orchestra itself. The Tapiola Sinfonietta engages in long-term cooperation with its Artists in Association and has an impressive guest list of prominent conductors and soloists. The orchestra also frequently performs chamber music and engages in bold cross-genre projects. The orchestra performs on a regular basis at schools, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in addition to its concert series. The Tapiola Sinfonietta regularly appears at festivals in Finland and has toured in Europe, Asia and the USA. The orchestra´s 70-title discography is internationally recognised.

Susanna Mälkki

A conductor born and bred in Helsinki, Susanna Mälkki grew up to the accompaniment of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2004 she received her first invitation to conduct the orchestra of which she would become Chief Conductor in autumn 2016. Her path to the conductor’s podium passed through the cello classes of the Sibelius Academy and the Edsberg Institute in Stockholm, however, and the position of principal cellist in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. She made her conducting breakthrough in 1999, at the Helsinki Festival, and her first regular conducting appointment was as Artistic Director of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. Her Music Directorship of the celebrated Ensemble Intercontemporain (2006–2013) established her as a profound interpreter of music of the present day. Susanna Mälkki has conducted the world’s finest orchestras. In season 2017-18 she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera season and took over as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Musical America voted her Conductor of the Year 2017.

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the first professional symphony orchestra to be founded in the Nordic coun-tries (1882), has been operating without a break for over 135 years. It has grown from a band of 36 players to an orchestra of 102 regular members giving concerts attended by a total audience of a good 100,000 a year at the Helsinki Music Centre and abroad. Between 1892 and 1923 the HPO gave the first performances of almost all the symphonic works by Jean Sibelius with the composer himself conducting. The HPO’s founder and first Chief Conductor Robert Kajanus was succeed-ed by Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, John Storgårds and other conductors of note. Conductor Susanna Mälkki was appointed the next Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in autumn 2014. She began in her position as Chief Conductor in autumn 2016 and continues until spring 2021. Works by Sibelius and Rautavaara have featured on the highly-acclaimed discs made by the HPO. The disc of songs by Sibelius, featuring soprano Soile Isokoski and Leif Segerstam, was awarded the MIDEM Classical Award in Cannes in 2007, and Towards the Horizon, disc containing music by Einojuhani Rautavaara under the baton of John Storgårds, the Gramophone Award in 2012.