Born in the US and raised in Finland, Elina Vähälä made her orchestral debut with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra at the age of twelve and was later chosen by Osmo Vänskä as the orchestra’s ‘Young Master Soloist’. Since then, her career has continued to develop on the international stage, winning praise from audiences and musicians alike as ‘a fluent, stylish and gifted musician whose brilliant technique is matched by an abundant spirit, sensitivity and imagination’ (Chicago Tribune). Elina Vähälä appears regularly with all of the key Finnish orchestras as well being a guest of countless high-profile orchestras across the globe. Her affinity with the music of the 20th and 21st centuries is evident back in recording studio twice this year: a disc devoted to the music Aho, including his Violin Concerto no 2, and a project with the Polish National Radio Symphony and with Alexander Liebreich as part of their focus on Szymanowski.
Saxophonist Jukka Perko has led numerous successful bands and ensembles, and has performed in over forty countries. Powered by his spectacular playing technique, and by mixing traditional jazz with some distinctly Finnish elements, he has earned his place as one of the most celebrated saxophonists of his entire generation.
The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) is the orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle), and its mission is to produce and promote Finnish musical culture. 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, Sakari Oramo, Hannu Lintu, and as of autumn 2021 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 year premieres a number of Yle commissions. Another of the orchestra’s tasks is to record all Finnish orchestral music for the Yle archive. 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, MIDEM Classical awards and Grammy nominations in 2020 and 2021. 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. FRSO concerts are broadcast live on the Yle Areena and Radio 1 channels, and later on the same evening on the Yle Teema TV channel. Recordings of the concerts are also shown on Yle TV 1.
Kymi Sinfonietta was established on January 1st, 1999, when the city orchestras of Kotka and Kouvola were merged. Currently, the orchestra consists of 33 musicians. The orchestra operates as a limited company, Kymenlaakson Orkesteri Oy, which is owned by the cities of Kotka (2/3) and Kouvola (1/3). This model involving two owner-cities is unique in Finland. A versatile, widely acclaimed repertoire and high-class artistic activity with Finnish and international artists have gained the orchestra a solid reputation. The first artistic director of Kymi Sinfonietta was Mr. Juha Nikkola. Between 2004-2006, the principal guest conductor was Dmitri Slobodeniouk. From the beginning of 2007 to the summer of 2014, the artistic director was Japanese conductor Yasuo Shinozaki. The Estonian conductor Olari Elts has been the artistic advisor of Kymi Sinfonietta since 2018. Kymi Sinfonietta’s concerts are regularly held in Kotka, and two thirds of the concerts are also performed in Kouvola. The orchestra also visits other cities in Finland and abroad. The repertoire is wide, ranging from chamber music to symphonies, from baroque to modern music – always ready for new kinds of musical adventures.
The Lapland Chamber Orchestra
Founded in 1972, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra – Rovaniemi City Orchestra is the northernmost professional chamber orchestra in Finland and indeed in the entire EU. The orchestra has 18 full-time members and its Artistic Director is conductor John Storgårds. The orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor is pianist, conductor and composer Olli Mustonen. Based at Korundi House of Culture in Rovaniemi, the orchestra is a regional orchestra that regularly tours the Province of Lapland, but also performs elsewhere in Finland and along the Cap of the North. The orchestra has performed at festivals such as the Savonlinna Opera Festival, Helsinki Festival and the Korsholma Music Festival. Abroad, the orchestra has visited Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Germany, Russia and Algeria, with the latest tours taking the orchestra to Hungary and Canada. In 2014, the orchestra performed at the legendary BBC Proms festival in London as the first chamber orchestra from Finland. The repertoire of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra reflects our time. The programme includes works by contemporary composers, without forgetting the more classical repertoire and rare gems from different periods. The orchestra has given first performances of works by many prominent composers. Distinguished guest performers have included Soile Isokoski, Håkan Hardenberger, Christian Tetzlaff, Nicholas Daniel, Nicholas Kraemer, Piers Adams, Colin Currie, Sabine Meyer, Benjamin Schmid, Kirill Gerstein and Tuomas Katajala. The orchestra has collaborated with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra, among others. In addition to chamber concert experiences, the orchestra holds final rehearsals that are open to the public as well as artist meetings between the orchestra’s musicians, visitors and audience. Concerts in villages and at schools, music sessions with the audience and contacts with music lovers are also important to the orchestra. Commitment to music is reflected in the orchestra’s ability to perform jazz, tango and world music alongside wonderful classical works. The work and recordings of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra have gained recognition. For example, the orchestra’s recording of the Chamber Symphonies of Vagn Holmboe received rave reviews and was a nominee for the 2013 Gramophone Award. The recording of Kalevi Aho’s concertos for theremin and horn, in turn, received the distinguished German ECHO Klassik award in 2015. The latest release of Hans Abrahamsen's Schnee was nominated for the 2022 Gramophone Award finalist and ICMA 2022 Award and is nominated for Finnish Emma 2023 Award.
The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra
Formed in 1972, the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra (OCO) is one of the best-known Finnish orchestras in the international arena. Under its founder, conductor Juha Kangas, it established an ambitious profile marked by a dynamic, quick-to-react sound and a repertoire stretching from the Baroque to the present day. Juha Kangas served as the orchestra’s Artistic Director until the end of 2008 and is now its Honorary Conductor. Collaboration with composer Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944–2008) spanning many decades is one example of the partnerships on which the OCO’s eminence is founded. The orchestra’s active role in promoting contemporary music has yielded over 190 premieres, many of which it has commissioned. The OCO has close relations with both Finnish composers and others in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Enjoying a wide international reputation, it has been awarded such honours as the Nordic Council Music Prize in 1993. The OCO has made over 80 recordings that have won acclaim and spread its name abroad. Recent examples are the CD of the Hamburg Symphonies by C.Ph.E. Bach conducted by Sakari Oramo (the Orchestra’s Artistic Director 2013–2019) that won a Finnish classical Emma in 2014 and was nominated as Record of the Year by the BBC Music Magazine, and A Finnish Elegy (Alba, 2018), conducted by Juha Kangas and nominated for both an Emma and an International Classical Music Award. In addition to performing in its home town, Kokkola, the OCO regularly tours both in Finland and abroad. In summer 2019 it made a return visit to the celebrated Würzburg Mozart Festival in Germany. Outside Europe, it has held concerts in Japan and New York. Sakari Oramo has been succeeded as Artistic Director by Swedish violinist Malin Broman, a renowned soloist, chamber musician and music director, who took over in autumn 2019.
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. 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 began her tenure as the orchestra’s chief conductor and the artistic director of the Sibelius Festival. 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.
Game Music Collective
Game Music Collective are an ensemble of two dozen musicians plus a choir if required and guest stars. They have been filling concert halls to capacity around Finland and are launching an international career through their YouTube channel, where their videos have amassed more than 16 million views. The Game Music Collective Band is a group formed by seven members of the Collective, performing classic game music numbers from game series such as Final Fantasy, Halo, The Elder Scrolls, Battlefield and Metal Gear Solid. Game Music Collective gave their first concert at Finlandia Hall in September 2017 with a wide selection of game music conducted by Eero Lehtimäki. The Collective went on to give numerous game music performances at concert halls, festivals and gaming events.