Press release, October 2, 2007
125 philharmonious years:
The Helsinki Philharmonic anniversary in photos and music
On Wednesday this week (October 3), 125 years will have passed since composer-conductor Robert Kajanus, then aged 25, conducted the debut concert, at the Helsinki University Hall, of the symphony orchestra he had just founded in 1882. There had indeed been occasional orchestral concerts in Helsinki before this date, but Kajanus’s orchestra can still be heard today.
Robert Kajanus conducted his orchestra for a record five decades. In 1914 it was taken over by the City of Helsinki. Kajanus has been succeeded by ten distinguished Chief Conductors, most recently by Leif Segerstam 1995-2007.
Kajanus encouraged the rising generation of composers – and especially Sibelius – by placing his orchestra at their disposal. Under him the orchestra gave over 80 profile concerts focusing on a particular Finnish composer. This week the HPO premieres a work it has commissioned from Jukka Tiensuu, a Concerto for Orchestra entitled Vie that will be broadcast live from the concert at Finlandia Hall beginning at 7 pm on Thursday October 4.
For its anniversary season the HPO has chosen a number of works of which it has, over the decades, given the world or Finnish premiere performance: Busoni’s Symphonic Suite (October 10 & 11), Sibelius’s Kullervo (December 6) and Finlandia (October 4), Palmgren’s Pictures from Finland (November 29), Kajanus’s Overtura sinfonica (November 1), Pingoud’s The Face of the City (November 7 & 8), Sallinen’s Symphony no. 1 (October 24 & 25) and Rautavaara’s Before the Icons (December 13).
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra has been in operation for longer than any other professional orchestra in the Nordic countries. An exhibition devoted to its 125-year history will be held in the foyer of Helsinki City Hall from October 3 to 31 (weekdays 9 am – 4 pm). Admission to the exhibition is free.
The orchestra’s past and present are brilliantly combined in a jubilee documentary A Cinematic Poem for Orchestra directed by Pekka Hako. After the premiere screening on October 2 it will be shown at the Kino Engel from October 4 to 30, at 11 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 3 pm on Sundays. The City Museum’s Kino Engel is at Sofiankatu 4.
Pictures from Finland, the 125th anniversary disc of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra for Ondine, is devoted to Finnish music. Among the items included are Sibelius’s Spring Song and Valse triste, Toivo Kuula’s Wedding March and Oskar Merikanto’s Valse lente. The music is beautifully matched by superb Finnish landscape photos by Tapio Heikkilä. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Leif Segerstam.
As part of the 90th anniversary celebrations of the independent Republic of Finland and the Helsinki Days in St. Petersburg the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra will be giving a concert conducted by Leif Segerstam at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic on November 13. It will thus also be paying tribute to the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra likewise celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.