Orchestras and conductors

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra for Lahti, Finland and the world that is proud of its traditions but also has an innovative attitude.

At the heart of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s activity is a broad and wide-ranging series of symphony concerts, plus high-quality concerts of lighter music. Considerable emphasis is laid on work directed at children and young people in the Lahti area. The orchestra is based at the Sibelius Hall, the acoustics of which have been listed as among the best in the world by such publications as The Guardian, the Wall Street Journal and Die Welt.

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For some decades the chief conductors have been Finnish musicians of worldwide renown – Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Okko Kamu and most recently Dima Slobodeniouk, who took over as principal conductor in the autumn of 2016. The same conductors have also served as artistic director of the Sibelius Festival that the orchestra has organized since 2000. In the autumn of 2021 Dalia Stasevska will begin her tenure as the orchestra’s chief conductor and the artistic director of the Sibelius Festival. Conductor Anja Bihlmaier took up the position of the orchestra’s principal guest conductor in the autumn of 2020.

The widespread worldwide acclaim of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra stems from its extensive catalogue of recordings, numerous international tours and online concerts. More than thirty years of recordings, mostly for the Swedish BIS label, have resulted in around a hundred discs, many international record prizes, three platinum discs and seven gold discs, which have sold a total of more than 1.2 million copies worldwide. Its Sibelius recordings with Osmo Vänskä – among them the original versions of the composer’s Violin Concerto and Fifth Symphony – have been especially well received, and laid the foundations of the orchestra’s international reputation for playing Sibelius. Music by the orchestra’s composer laureate Kalevi Aho has also played a major role in its recording production.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra has appeared at many prestigious festivals and at leading venues all over the world, including the BBC Proms in London, the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, performances in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Philharmonie in Berlin, Musikverein in Vienna and Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Concert tours have taken the orchestra to Japan, China, South Korea, the USA, South America and many European countries. In Finland the Lahti Symphony Orchestra has been a regular visitor to the Verkatehdas in Hämeenlinna since 2007 and is a familiar sight at other venues too.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra was the first orchestra in the world to start regular concert broadcasts online at the ClassicLive website in 2007. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra Carbon Free project, which started in 2015, earned the international Classical:NEXT Innovation Prize in 2018.

Petri Komulainen

Petri Komulainen is a sought-after conductor, horn player and pedagogue. He is known as a wide-ranging, versatile and innovative musician who is at home in symphony repertoire, opera and chamber music, both as a conductor and instrumentalist. The music of our time and the organic collaboration with composers are close to him, and it has resulted in several ensembles of works, such as Harri Ahmaksen’s Käärmesormus opera, Paavo Heininen’s Aiolos concerto and several premieres during the artistic leadership of the Zagros Ensemble.

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Komulainen has recorded as a conductor and instrumentalist for several record labels, such as BIS, Alba, Toccata Classics, Pilfink and IFO. He regularly conducts several orchestras both in Finland and abroad. His long cooperation with composers and contemporary music professionals goes back to the Zagros Ensemble, whose artistic director he has been since 2013. Zagros Ensemble is one of our country’s oldest and most established new music ensembles, which regularly visits festivals and performs on Yleisradio. Komulainen has been a lecturer in the brass band conducting at the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts since 2016, and he has played the French horn at Sinfonia Lahti since 2001.

Petri Komulainen studied French horn and conducting at the Helsinki Conservatory, the Sibelius Academy, the Freiburg University of Music in Germany and the Basel Schola Cantorum in Switzerland. Komulainen graduated from the Sibelius Academy with excellent grades as a master of music in both the performing arts and orchestra conducting training programs in 2008. He received the third prize in the international Jorma Panula conducting competition in 2006.

Tapiola Sinfonietta

The Tapiola Sinfonietta has established itself as Finland’s premier chamber orchestra. Founded as the Espoo City Orchestra in 1987, it currently has 44 members. The orchestra is known for its adventurous repertoire planning and has been widely acclaimed for nuanced performances across a wide range of eras and styles.

The Tapiola Sinfonietta often performs without a conductor, placing an emphasis on ensemble playing and the personal responsibility of each musician.

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In 2000, the orchestra introduced a management model where artistic planning is handled by a management team formed of the General Manager and two orchestra members. Dialogue and a cross-sector approach are characteristic of the orchestra’s work with its Artists in Association, Artists in Residence and visiting conductors and soloists. In the 2022–2023 season, the Tapiola Sinfonietta’s Artists in Association are conductor Ryan Bancroft and guitarist/composer Marzi Nyman, with soprano Katharine Dain as Artist in Residence.

The orchestra’s home base is the Espoo Cultural Centre, located in the district of Tapiola, world famous for its garden city architecture. Engaging in exceptionally broad-based audience outreach work, the orchestra addresses all age groups in the City of Espoo, from unborn babies to senior citizens, and gives performances away from conventional concert venues.

The Tapiola Sinfonietta appears regularly at music festivals in Finland, and tours abroad have boosted its international reputation along with its award-winning discography.

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

When Robert Kajanus established an orchestra in Helsinki in 1882, his ambitious plan was to gather together the city’s best musicians and others recruited from abroad – some 36 in all – in order to give the people of Helsinki a chance to hear great musical masterpieces at a series of weekly concerts.

The principle of putting on regular concerts given by an orchestra of top musicians has remained right up to the present day in the close to 140 years since the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra was formed. It premiered most of the symphonic works by Jean Sibelius with the composer himself conducting, and continues its commitment to contemporary music by commissioning works by composers both Finnish and foreign. The series of Helsinki Variations commissioned from 12 composers during the period 2019–2025 is forging a link between the music of today and works on a Helsinki theme composed before 1945.

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Now a band of 102 musicians, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra annually performs to a total audience of over 110,000 and has become an important constituent of its host city’s cultural capital. It also reaches people who for one reason or another cannot attend concerts at the Helsinki Music Centre, for in addition to making international tours, it sends small ensembles out across the city, provides opportunities for young people to perform and, through its active education programme, is able to make contact with special groups. Now, for the third time, it is inviting an entire age group – all the children born in Helsinki in 2020 – to enjoy music with their families over the next seven years as members of the HPO Kids -program.

The HPO concerts and background interviews screened live or recorded on the Internet and, for example, at the Helsinki Central Library Oodi make the process of creating a piece of music even more readily accessible. The orchestra’s partnership with the BIS label further ensures that HPO performances are available to all both now and well into the future in state-of-the-art recordings.

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra has had 13 Chief Conductors. Under Susanna Mälkki, who took over in 2016, the orchestra has developed into an increasingly impressive actor on the international scene with a distinctive sound that is a notable element of the Helsinki soundscape.

Rumon Gamba

British conductor Rumon Gamba is Chief Conductor of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra, a post he has held since January 2022. Previous positions included Principal Conductor and Music Director of NorrlandsOperan (2008-2015); Chief Conductor of the Aalborg Symfoniorkester (2011-2015), and Chief Conductor and Music Director of Iceland Symphony Orchestra (2002-2010). He regularly leads the BBC orchestras and has appeared at the BBC Proms on a number of occasions.

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A champion of new music, Gamba has conducted several high profile premieres including the world premieres of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys at English National Opera; Brett Dean’s Viola Concerto with the composer and BBC Symphony Orchestra; national premieres of Poul Ruders’ Dancer in the Dark and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Blood on the Floor and Scherzoid with Norrdlands Operan, and the Australian premiere of the original version of Sibelius’ Symphony No.5 with Queensland Symphony Orchestra. In 2016 he conducted Larsson Gothe’s The African Prophetess with the orchestra of Norrdlands Operan and Cape Town Opera Chorus as part of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras’ composer week. In 2019, Gamba debuted with Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra to conduct a programme dedicated to the film composer Frédéric Devreese.

Highlights of Gamba’s recent and future seasons include Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, Helsingborg Philharmonic, Romanian Radio Symphony, Madeconian Phiharmonic, Goteborgs Symfoniker, Ulster Orchestra and WDR Funkhausorchester; a concert performance with Wermland Opera in Karlstad, and several concerts and recordings with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
​Rumon Gamba has conducted a number of operatic titles, including Rigoletto at Scottish Opera, Carmen, La bohème, Otello and Candide. In celebration of Umeå’s status as European Capital of Culture 2014, he conducted NorrlandsOperan in an epic outdoor production of Elektra with La Fura dels Baus, which was critically acclaimed. Future projects include The Magic Flute with Oulu Opera and a ballet double bill with Finnish National Opera.