Orchestras and conductors

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the first professional symphony orchestra to be founded in the Nordic countries (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 120,000 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 succeeded by Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, John Storgårds and other conductors of note. Conductor Susanna Mälkki was appointed the 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 2023.

As of autumn 2011 the newly constructed Helsinki Music Centre is now the very heart of Finland’s musical life and the HPO’s home venue. In addition to the 70-80 concerts it gives each year in Helsinki the HPO regularly tours abroad. The first foreign visit was to the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. The Orchestra has visited most of the countries in Europe and been on four tours both to the United States and Japan. In spring 2004 the HPO was the first Finnish symphony orchestra to tour South America and in August 2008 the HPO visited China for the first time.

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Chief Conductor 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.

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The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) is the orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle). Its mission is to produce and promote Finnish musical culture and its Chief Conductor as of autumn 2013 has been Hannu Lintu.

The Radio Orchestra of ten players founded in 1927 grew to symphony orchestra proportions in the 1960s. Its Chief Conductors have been Toivo Haapanen, Nils-Eric Fougstedt, Paavo Berglund, Okko Kamu, Leif Segerstam, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Sakari Oramo, and taking over from Hannu Lintu in 2021 will be Nicholas Collon.

In addition to the great Classical-Romantic masterpieces, the latest contemporary music is a major item in the repertoire of the FRSO, which each  ear premieres a number of Yle commissions. Another of the orchestra’s tasks is to record all Finnish orchestral music for the Yle archive. During the 2019/2020 season, the FRSO will premiere four works commissioned by Yle.

The FRSO has recorded works by Mahler, Bartók, Sibelius, Hakola, Lindberg, Saariaho, Sallinen, Kaipainen, Kokkonen and others. It has twice won a Gramophone Award: for its disc of Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto in 2006 and of Bartók Violin Concertos in 2018. Other distinctions have included BBC Music Magazine, Académie Charles Cros and MIDEM Classical awards. Its disc of tone poems and songs by Sibelius won an International Classical Music Award (ICMA) in 2018, and it has been the recipient of a Finnish EMMA award in 2016 and 2019.

The FRSO concerts are broadcast live on the Yle Areena and Radio 1 channels and are recorded and shown later on Yle Teema and TV 1.

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Conductor Dima Slobodeniouk

Lauded for his deeply informed and intelligent artistic leadership, Dima Slobodeniouk has held the position of Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia since 2013, which he combines with his more recent positions as Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Sibelius Festival following his appointment in 2016. Linking his native Russian roots with the cultural influence of his later homeland Finland, he draws on the powerful musical heritage of these two countries.

Last season he gave his debut with the Het Concertgebouw Orkest, including a tour to Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Tallinn. He works with orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago, Houston and Baltimore as well as Sydney Symphony Orchestras.

Summer 2019 sees Slobodeniouk return to the Tanglewood Music Festival, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Yefim Bronfman, before he gives his debut in the orchestra’s main series in Boston in October this year. Further highlights are his debuts with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich with Simon Trpčeski, with the Wiener Symphoniker, with San Francisco Symphony with Sergey Khachatryan and with The Cleveland Orchestra. He returns to the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Houston Symphony with Kirill Gerstein. He opens the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia’s 19/20 season with the ‘Symphony of Psalms’ by Stravinsky; on tour together, appearances include the Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical in Madrid with Isabelle Faust as soloist. With the Lahti Symphony Orchestra he is excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sibelius Festival with soloists such as Karita Mattila. Other soloists he works with include Leif Ove Andsnes, Joshua Bell, Khatia Buniatishvili, Vilde Frang, Håkan Hardenberger, Johannes Moser, Truls Mørk, Baiba Skride, Yuja Wang and Frank Peter Zimmermann.

Slobodeniouk’s discography was recently extended by recordings of works by Stravinsky with Ilya Gringolts and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia (BIS) and works by Kalevi Aho with Lahti Symphony Orchestra (BIS), the latter received the BBC Music Magazine award 2018. He has previously recorded works by Lotta Wennäkoski with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Ondine) and works by Sebastian Fagerlund with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (BIS).

Moscow-born Dima Slobodeniouk studied violin at Moscow Central Music School under Zinaida Gilels and Jevgenia Chugajev, at the Middle Finland Conservatory as well as the Sibelius Academy under Olga Parhomenko. His conducting studies continued with Atso Almila under the guidance of Leif Segerstam and Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy, he also studied under Ilya Musin and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Striving to inspire young musicians of the future, Slobodeniouk has worked with students at the Verbier Festival Academy over recent years and furthermore began a conducting initiative with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, providing an opportunity for students to work on the podium with a professional orchestra.

© Photo: Marco Borggreve