Hooked on sheet music...

In June I wrote an essay for a new catalogue of Ostinato. Ostinato is a sheet music shop in Helsinki founded by the music students in 1978 and which is now mostly owned by the Student Union of the Sibelius Academy. When I was studying at the Academy I was a board member of Ostinato and It´s still a dear place to me. We are very lucky in Helsinki: we can still buy our music from a real shop. I´ll publish this short column as a translation by Susan Sinisalo. Something to digest for you in the beginning of a new season.

Hooked on sheet music

While in New York in April 2009, I deliberately set aside time to visit the Patelson Music House next door to Carnegie Hall on East 54th Street. Apart from showing a friend my favourite place in that city, I wanted to buy a specific edition of Mahler 1 and the orchestral parts of some Haydn symphonies.

The moment I entered the store, I realised something was wrong. There were yawning gaps on the shelves, bewildered customers wandering aimlessly around, and the staff looked as if they’d been in tears for a week. It turned out that the store established in 1954 was closing down. A major icon in American musical life was about to disappear. Apart from its phenomenal selection, Patelson’s was renowned for its expert personnel and its almost devout atmosphere. Adding to the store’s prestige were the artists visiting Carnegie Hall next door, all of whom seemed to have some business to conduct at this Manhattan mecca.

I’ve always been hooked on music shops. I remember how, as a student, it was always a thrill to be able to visit, say, Boosey’s in London or Doblinger’s in Vienna. As an Interrailer, defying the forces of gravity, I lugged around scores and sheet music you could only get by ordering them in Finland, if then. And ordering was not much fun; you need to be able to finger music and take a look at it before you buy. It’s your first introduction to a work, and hence a very solemn, sacred moment.

Nowadays ordering on the Internet is part of everyday life. I have tried to avoid this prosaic state of affairs by strolling along to Ostinato and ordering my scores from them. While I’m there, I can browse through the music they have in stock, even if I don’t really intend to buy any.

The budding pianist is already aware even at music-school age that music books differ. In one edition the same minuet will be served up with cute little bunnies, whereas in another the wig-framed face of Papa Bach may grace the page alongside the notes. But whatever you choose, the illustrations and even the quality of the paper will be indelibly engraved on your mind.

The slightly older music-college student will admire his teacher’s old, dog-eared copies of the Bach Inventions or the Mozart Sonatas. At some stage he will learn the important word “edition”. The first G. Henle Verlag edition with its blue covers seems a costly treasure, and the teacher’s notes scribbled in the margin are almost sacrilege: “make RH sing!”, “remember middle notes!”, “rhythm!”. Why this mania for spoiling the page? As if there were something wrong with the pupil’s memory.

Later, the conservatory and academy student will be simply deluged with editions. In libraries, cafés and smoking rooms he will compare Peters with Henle and Bärenreiter. “Urtext” will become a buzzword. He may seriously begin to imagine that the sheet free from all markings suggesting interpretation, infuriating illogicalities and ambiguities is somehow the greatest achievement of Western musicology and printing. The present era, intent on giving an authentic performance, tends to forget the tremendous historical and musically instructive insights afforded by, say, the Czerny or Schnabel editions of the Beethoven Sonatas.

Comparing editions and the supremacy of critical editions results in some comic behaviour. I recently performed Beethoven’s fourth Piano Concerto with a leading North American pianist. He had covered his ancient Schirmer copy with brown paper so that no one would notice he was not working from a critical edition. For the same reason I have torn the covers off my own, superb Dover score of “The Complete Piano Concertos by Beethoven”. We got on extremely well.

I myself find that, more and more often, my choice of edition is dictated by practical considerations. I seem to be guided more by extra-musical criteria: the quality of the paper, the binding, and especially the font. The fact that I can, in a fit of frustration, hurl the score at the wall without the binding falling apart is sometimes more important than whether the staccatos are marked with dots or wedges.

The composer’s intention is of course expressed graphically on the page, but the inner worlds of the composer, performer and listener ultimately encounter one another intuitively, in a state apart from the printed score, in the performance. Printed copies are nevertheless needed. Each generation of musicians has to buy its own copies. The fact that leading music stores are closing down is a consequence not of a crisis in the printing industry but of consumers’ changing buying habits and shops’ inability to respond to them. We may well speculate on the future of the newspaper or book, but it is unlikely that any reading device will ever replace the printed sheet of music. Otherwise, where will teachers write their instructions, violinists mark their bowings and conductors their peculiar hieroglyphics?



I´m finally back home! I was marooned in Bangkok for three days. Volcanic ashes and all that. I know, not very original anymore but I have to mention this because there were some implications.

On Sunday the 18th of April after the concerts with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur I took a flight to Bangkok in order to continue with Finnair to Helsinki. The latter flight, naturally, didn´t exist. Next day, when there still weren´t any signs of flights to Europe, I decided to cancel this weeks concerts with the Tapiola Sinfonietta. We had a rehearsal scheduled already for Monday afternoon. Finally on Wednesday the 21st after a considerable struggle I was able to get a seat for the first flight operating to Helsinki. This flight went otherwise well but finally landed in Oulu, a city in Northern Finland. On Thursday morning (5.45am) I took a train and came home at noon. Now I´m actually able to go to Tapiola and listen to the concerts I cancelled...

I have mixed feelings about this. Canceling concerts is the last thing I want to do and being stuck far away from home without having any idea when to get back is a surprisingly unpleasant feeling. However I was fine all the time and an obligatory rest of three days in the middle of a hectic spring season didn´t feel bad. Now one of my main concerns is how to get a visa to Moscow for Sunday evening.

Thanks for all your support and encouraging messages, they cheered my up a lot. The atmosphere in my Bangkok hotel was like a modern version of "Il Viaggio a Reims": people from all over the world stuck in the same hotel trying not to become too bored. Since I didn´t have much scores with me I spent time by reading (Kazuo Ishiguro´s "Nocturnes"), sleeping and observing the bizarre and dangerous traffic on the Chao Phraya-river. It was also quite entertaining to follow the movements of friends and colleagues via mail, SMS and Facebook. I´ve been very impressed by the heroic train/ship combinations some of them have found.

An internet columnist wrote yesterday that this is a warning: "the jet set traveling is coming to an end". No it isn´t. Traveling never stops. J.S. Bach walked 200 miles to hear Buxtehude, the 18th and 19th century musicians made extensive tours in coaches and the performers of the early 20th century took steam ships to South America. We fly. That´s what the people of our time do and I´m sure that if flying for some reason becomes impossible, we would sooner or later find other ways how to travel.

In Kuala Lumpur the MSO was adventurous enough to program a combination titled "Finnish Legends" with two movements from the Lemminkäinen op 22 and Einojuhani Rautavaara´s Symphony no 7 "Angel of Light" which I haven´t conducted for years. Rautavaara´s music is about sound and that´s exactly the feature which speaks to the audiences around the world. Young Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang played the six Humoresques by Sibelius in a most convincing way. Not only could she play all those devilishly difficult passages without any technical problems but she was also able to find meaning and beauty when Sibelius himself seems to be slightly lost. I´m very happy we have invited Vilde Frang to Tampere in October for the Brahms Concerto. Be there. She´s something very special.



Usually conductors try to plan their concert programs so that they don´t have to use all their free time for studying scores. This is done by some kind of a musical recycling: playing only a limited amount of pieces during the season. I´ve never been good in this. There seems to be constantly piles of new scores around to study. This is certainly interesting and fascinating but has its downsides: again I had to buy a new, bigger suitcase. A couple of weeks ago a taxi driver in Tampere asked if I was carrying stones for a sauna.

In addition to this, I recently discovered that conducting Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms or Haydn without a score brings lots of joy, freedom and new perspective to my work. This means however that I have to spend hours memorizing these scores which I studied already years ago, I´m practically learning them all over again.

Don´t get me wrong, I´m not complaining. I enjoy my profession more than ever but also realize that I have to learn some time management. This is also one of the reasons why I haven´t been blogging for five weeks.

Since the beginning of March there have been three weeks in the U.S. In Indianapolis I played with Corey Cerovsek who´s got the perfect mind and sense of humor for the Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Unlike most American orchestras, the ISO has a very dark and broad sound which seemed to suit well for the Schostakovich´s 11th Symphony. But again I was troubled by the difficulties of this powerful music. Technically it´s easy and emotionally it´s obvious but sometimes the absence of inner layers in the score makes me feel slightly useless. On the other hand the lack of textual complexity leaves the perfomers lots of energy for creating sound and form. No matter what the problems are, I think Boulez was wrong when he said that Schostakovich is "second or even third pressing of Mahler". There´s no point in comparing these composers at all. Mahler´s starting point was personal and Schostakovich´s universal. Certain similarities in musical language only emphasize this difference.

Indianapolis was followed by a week with the Houston Symphony and Alban Gerhardt. It was such a pleasure to play with Alban again. His reading of the Sinfonia Concertante by Prokofiev is something very special, bold and delicate at the same time. The Houston Symphony has sensitivity and ear for Sibelius and we had many happy moments with the 2nd Symphony. I can hardly wait for the "Eroica" with them in October. During my stay in Houston I heard Brinton Smith, the principal cello of the HSO to play a magnificent tour de force solo recital, spent a relaxing and funny afternoon with Alban and my colleagues Brett Mitchell and Ken-David Masur and went to see the Rothko Chappel (I didn´t even know it is in Houston. This information was kindly revealed to me by Angela Hewitt).

Before Easter I spent four jet lagged days in Leeds where I played with the Orchestra of Opera North. The reputation of this opera company is widespread but before my visit I didn´t know much about the orchestra.I have to say they were really good and the Leeds Town Hall is a magnificent concert venue, for the first time the finale of the "Titan" didn´t sound too tumultuous. Amanda Roocroft was a perfect soloist in a set of songs by Richard Strauss. My favorite, Die Heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland was included.

I´m writing this while traveling from Baltimore to Kuala Lumpur. The last concert with the Baltimore Symphony was on Saturday at the Strathmore Music Center near Washington DC. Percussionist Colin Currie played the U.S. premiere of the "Incantations" by Einojuhani Rautavaara, a new work which Colin premiered in London and which has since October been played in Rotterdam and Tampere. After three concerts in Baltimore we felt that the piece has finally found its shape. Colin is always an admirable soloist, concentrated and reliable. Also the BSO was a new orchestra for me. I´ve always been told that they are exceptional and it was great to notice that they really are equal to their reputation. It was easy to connect with this fine ensemble and it´s enthusiastic audience. Beethoven´s 7th with them was one of the highlights of my season.

Funny thing... the Baltimore concerts opened with Sibelius´s Finlandia. This was suggested by the orchestra (probably to eliminate a possible box office catastrophe caused by a contemporary percussion concerto) and I realized that I´ve never conducted this piece as a part of a symphonic program! I´ve played it dozens of times but never as what it really is: a symphonic poem with enormous musical gravity, not a national monument or a flamboyant encore.

Knowing that American orchestras have had difficult and depressing times economically, I´m always surprised to find these groups full of enthusiasm and joy of music making. Quite remarkable really.

In Easter, squeezed between all these trips we made a brave and acceptable performance of Beethoven´s Missa Solemnis in Tampere. I have been waiting for an opportunity to perform it since I borrowed the miniature score from the Sibelius Academy library in the mid 90´s (I can still remember the librarian looking at me, amazed. "What do you need this for? It´s not a very good piece, you know", she said). Knowing that it´s not an easy piece to approach I was moved by the supportive observance and warm enthusiasm of our audience.

I´ve been reading quite a lot about Beethoven and his life but his religiousness has always been an enigma to me. As an offspring of the enlightenment he was probably a deist: he accepted the concept of God as a creator but thought that the universe is in the hands of the human beings only, especially in the hands of the great minds like himself. I think he considered himself as a supreme being in a deistic sense. He must have been absolutely sure that like universe, his own works would live their own life after he had created them. He was convinced that they were to become the essential part of the Western canon.

There is a clear sigh of this in the Missa: the turning point of the whole piece is the coda of Credo, the glorious Grave which ends the long fugato "et vitam venturi saeculi". In that moment Beethoven seems to be finally convinced that his work will live for centuries after his death. This joyful moment changes the character of the remaining movements. Sanctus and Agnus Dei seem to be filled with gratitude and peace.


Dangers of Subjectivity....

The beginning of the year has been surprisingly tiring but now I have time for a short break before six concerts in Indianapolis and Houston. In the previous concert with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra Vadim Gluzman gave a memorable performance of "Offertorium", the Violin concerto by Sofia Gubaidulina. She has the most exceptional ability of making the musicians and the audience to forget the actual process of composing. Gubaidulina`s superb technical skills stay humbly in the background when she brilliantly uses them in expressing something extremely human and valuable. I think J.S. Bach had the same ability.

Meeting Vadim Gluzman always reminds me of a strange episode in Portland, Oregon in December 2005. Vadim played the Mendelssohn Concerto in an Oregon Symphony program which also included the Sibelius 5th Symphony. Four years ago my concept of that symphony and Sibelius in general was much different than now. I was experimenting with sound, mainly by using slow tempi and tried to give the harmonies as much time as possible. This led very often to exceptionally broad slow movements. I´m sure some of the harmonies and interesting dissonances which are usually lost were audible in these otherwise perverse readings but I admit that that the lack of momentum occasionally destroyed the structural functions of harmony.

During the post concert CD signing a man from the audience came to me and started to yell something incomprehensible. The situation became so threatening that Charles Calmer, the Artistic Administrator of the Oregon Symphony and a couple of big guys from the orchestra threw the distracted citizen out. Next day when I was leaving for the second concert from my hotel there was a polite policeman waiting for me in the lobby. "Maestro, I´ll escort you to the hall". "What!?!? Surely that´s not necessary". "Yes it is", he says. Later, outside my dressing room I found another police, a detective with a smart looking dog. The hound searched the room and I was let in. Before I had chance to ask what on earth they were doing the management hurried in and I was told that the man from the other night had been so upset by my slow tempi, "so much slower than those by Osmo Vänskä" that the promoter was afraid he might get violent! Subjectivity can be dangerous.

For the rest of my stay in Portland I had this detective by my side where ever I went. In the beginning of each concert he escorted me from the dressing room to the stage and I could see him lurking behind the wings. Vadim Gluzman was the only one who remained calm and was obviously enjoying this bizarre situation. "There´s no need to worry, Hannu", he said. "i´ve got the commando training of the Israeli Army". In the worst possible case my slow tempos could have caused a serious international conflict.

In my previous blog entry I wrote about Jascha Horenstein and about the unique way he managed to combine the graphic realisation of the score with the subjective musical ideas. One of the basic dilemmas in a musical performance is how to do this without sounding smug. On the other hand the members of the public should remember that the recording he or she has at home is not the unquestionable truth. And finally, a professional critic must always have a look at the music before writing anything about the performance. Anyone who bothers to open the score can see that it certainly contains some strict information but at the same time allows lots of freedom and creativity.


Findings from the Web

Again a very typical Traveling Conductor´s day. After a rehearsal in Antwerp with the excellent Royal Flanders Philharmonic I went back to my hotel room in order to spend the rest of the day with the Second Chamber Symphony by Schönberg. This was the third serious try this week. Always when I open this strange score I remember what the composer wrote to his conductor Fritz Stiedry in 1939 while trying to recompose the piece he had started already in 1906: "most of the time I spend finding out what the author meant. My style has been deepened so much...". The "author" of course being Arnold himself. After the huge stylistic and geographical changes in his life he must have felt hopeless looking at the skeleton of a piece which he had been trying to compose thirty years earlier in his youthful late romantic multidimensional manner.

The result was, as he wrote himself "a perfect torso". I don´t think there are many good examples of composers successfully revisiting old material in order to create something which would better represent their new style. Actually, I can´t think of any such example. You are free to make suggestions but don´t say "Simon Boccanegra".

What I find problematic in the 2nd Chamber Symphony is the relation between the nature of the thematic material and the slightly theoretical manner in which he puts all that together: Schönberg is using romantic gestures and motives as he would use any twelve-tone row. This results a huge amount of vertical information in which all the levels are seemingly equally important. The piece becomes difficult to balance. I suddenly felt frustrated and tired with both Arnolds - young and old - and closed the score. There is still hope, the rehearsals in Lahti begin in three days and I guarantee that I´ll try to figure out something coherent by that.

Now, these are the unpleasant surprises in Traveling Conductors life: something you´ve planned to do isn´t working at all and suddenly you realise you are spending your time by counting the number of trams passing your hotel from your room window. There should always be a plan B for everything. I´m sure these are the moments when some conductors decide to start composing. Since I don´t have enough imagination for that I decided to fill this sudden gap by some web surfing. I´m going to share two findings with you.

The first one is stunning. From the Naxos Music Library I found a recording by one of my favourite conductors Jascha Horenstein which I hadn´t heard before: Mahler´s First Symphony played by the Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra and recorded probably in 1953. Only Horenstein can produce sound like that. Everything is obviously well and thoroughly rehearsed, every note balanced and measured. Everything is audible and transparent. First he does everything for the composer and THEN he makes it sound Jascha Horenstein. What a brilliant mind and great musician. Horenstein and Furwängler had the most recognisable sounds of the 20th century.

My second find was less emotional. I was told few weeks ago about the Google translator, the existence of which I had no idea. My friend was very enthusiastic about it: "It´s wonderful! Ingenious! It translates Finnish very well". "Okay...I´ll try it sometimes", I mumbled. Tonight after the devastating Mahler 1 by Horenstein I decided to check out this thing. Can it really translate more complicated sentences than "Merry Christmas"? No, it can´t. I´ve been laughing out loud in my hotel room while trying to find more and more complicated texts for this service to translate. I´m sharing with you one of these experiments: the synopsis of the Act 4 from Verdi´s Il Trovatore. The text is taken from the Finnish Wikipedia and the English translation is by Google. This surrealistic gibberish is presented by the joint effort by two giants of the web, although I have to admit that there are opera producers who are also fully capable of creating something like this:

Show IV - The execution was

1. Scene
Manrico attack failed and he is a prisoner of his men Aliaferian the castle tower. Leonora Ruiz is with the neighborhood. Leonora Manrico thoughts fly to create D'amor sull'ali rosé (pink-red wings of love). Dark in the distance belongs to the monks singing Miserere d'una alma (soul Grace). Leonora Manrico bows. Leonora declares that it will never forget Manrico and assure vedrai Tu che amore in terra (You can see that love is greater). Count the number of executed Manrico and Azucena burned. Leonora arrives and requests for mercy Manrico and offers the freedom of self-reward for Manrico Mira d'acerbe Lagrima (See the bitter tears). The county agrees to trade and Leonora secretly having a ring of poison.

2. Scene
Prisoner confinement for Manrico and Azucena look back on a life of freedom. Azucena remembers his mother rovion flames and half-alive is a piece of the mass of the mountains Ai nostri monti (We will return to mountains). Leonora Manrico arrives and asks to flee their own. Leonora Manrico suspects fleeing to have paid too high a price. Leonora calls to keep busy. Virus seems faster than expected, and Leonora recognize poisoned himself. Count di Luna sees the dying Leonora and understand they have been betrayed. Count the number of Manrico executed immediately. Count raises Azucena sleep to watch his son's death. Execution has occurred, Azucena tells Manrico the Count lost brother "Egli era brings Fratello!" (He was the brother). Azucena has been killed after his mother's death kostettua Sei vendicata, o madre! (I am a mother kostanut for you)!


Dear Richard Strauss...

"Dear Doktor Strauss, I`m always hanging midair after a performance of Don Quixote. I know this reveals my literary brutality but I have to confess that I find the Cervantes book quite boring. I´ve never understood why he needed so many words when his contemporary colleague Shakespeare was able to characterise the complexity of soul in such a precise and economical manner. As a matter of fact You made Cervantes a favor: it´s much easier for the people of our time to get emotional by 176 pages (and 35 minutes) of musical score than 477 pages of words (anything between two weeks and two years). In the modern world we are unwillingly used to the fact that everything around us consists of short episodes. It´s amazing that You created a piece for the Disney generations as early as 1897!"

The power of Strauss´s Don derives from the composers deep understanding of the human being. This feature is present in many of his works: think about Marschallin, Till Eulenspiegel, Salome or Elektra. Strauss feels sympathy even for his most surreal and ridiculous characters. I´m sure Cervantes did too but Strauss makes this antihero more approachable for us who are used to the fact that all the important theatrical scenes are made emotionally more understandable by music. The final scene of E.T. without music by John Williams would be only comical.

Strauss is able to show perfectly the contradiction between "Sein und Schein" and "Wollen und Können" . The personal message by him is that everybody has a right to keep his or her own dreams. This hasn´t got anything to do with the actual "dream come true", in many cases that is impossible and even dangerous. But dreams are most personal things and taking them away from someone might have deathly consequences.

The cellist Li Wei is one of those extraordinary artists who can always create something unexpected in the concert. This is of course how it should be. In the rehearsals we build a frame and in the concert we fill that frame with life. This reminds me on something I read during the holidays. Before Christmas I found a collection of short stories, "The Midnight Love feast" (La médianoche amoureux) by Michel Tournier, a writer whom I deeply love and respect. On the last pages of this book there is a story called "A Tale about Fine Arts" in which The Caliph of Bagdad wants to get the walls of his great new reception hall painted by the best and most famous artists of the known world. There are two equal walls opposite each other and after a careful selection he declares a competition between a Chinese and a Greek artist. The walls are covered by curtains and no one is allowed to enter the room before the competitors have finished.

Before closing the doors the Caliph asks the painters how long it will take to paint the walls. "I need three months" says Chinese. "I´m ready when my Chinese colleague is ready", says the Greek artist. After three months the Caliph invites the court to assemble the hall and the curtains are removed. The painting on the Chinese´s wall is unveiled first and people are struck by the beauty of the work: he has painted a most beautiful exotic garden one can imagine. Then the curtain covering the Greek´s wall is removed and the guests are even more stunned: he has put a huge mirror on the wall. The mirror reflects the masterful painting on the opposite wall but at the same time shows the people looking at the mirror. He has made the competitor´s painting perfect and thus wins the competition.

While Tournier´s point is that in the arts world distribution is as important for the artist as the work itself, the musicians should learn that a graphic realisation of the score is not enough. It has to be filled with life. in our case the Chinese cellist became a Greek painter...


Torments of flying

This morning I boarded a Finnair flight, again. Luckily I avoided the strike of the company´s pilots in November and the famous chaos with the luggage at the Helsinki airport during the first days of December. I certainly hope Finnair survives the difficult times. After extended stay abroad it´s always nice to board a Finnish aircraft, it´s a kind of extension of the fatherland: friendly but reserved service, familiar but not very good food, Finnish newspapers with nothing new in them...

But there is a frequent torment which drives me crazy: the music during boarding, taxing and takeoff. What makes the airline companies to think that the customers want to hear distorted jazz or appalling Pan Flute arrangements of something which sounds only vaguely familiar. Stop that, please! The situation is most painful in the morning when the passengers would like to relax and maybe even get some sleep. The Finnish Musician`s Union have (at least used to have) a special prize for public environments which are free of muzak. Maybe they should have a special antiprize for this kind of cacotopical terrorism as well.

And then there´s another annoying thing: useless announcements during the flight. "We are at the moment flying over the Isle of Gotland" ," our altitude is 11 000 metres", "the city of Mumbai on the left hand side", "we´ll start by heading south towards Berlin, then turn west and fly along the French border, over Geneva...". And all this in three languages! Who cares!?!? Just take me where I´m going and let me sleep.

It might look as if I were in a bad mood. Not at all. I just returned from Bremen. Die Glocke is a fenomenal hall and the audience there is always so warm and attentive. And Sharon Kam... what can I say...she´s the Maria Callas of the Clarinet.


Standing composers...

Someone just made me study Norman Lebrecht´s recent and unnecessary list on those contemporary composers "who will still be heard 50 years from now".


It´s difficult to understand the reason for these pollings. They might be entertaining for some readers but the real substance is of course missing. The biggest record companies will naturally send their blessings to Mr Lebrecht and it seems that he is making them a favor in a same way the Finnish cultural minister Stefan Wallin is about to make a favor for Nokia, though the latter case is about copyright laws.

The music enthusiasts have never been very good prophets since the greatest composers are always ahead of their own time and Mr Lebrecht very wisely refers to other possible reasons for the obvious distortions on his list. Contemporary fame does not necessarily predict eternal life, not even life after 50 years. There must be few Albrectsbergers, Salieris and Reichas on this list. Which ones, I can´t say. I´m not a prophet either.

This actually happens to link very well with our concert on Friday last week in Tampere.

The week was musically interesting and logistically victorious. Veli-Matti Puumala´s magnificent and huge orchestral piece was rehearsed and performed in the presence of the composer. The score is literally huge as well. I remember few years ago a critic writing that "the score is in the size of a doberman but you still need a magnifying glass to read it". The premiere at the Helsinki Festival twelve years ago was disaster because the conductor booked for the occasion didn´t (or couldn´t) study it properly. The way how the piece came out this time was hopefully nearer to the composer´s intentions but there are still things we have to fix before the recording sessions in January. One of the most unique and difficult features in this piece is the stage layout of the orchestra. There are about one hundred musicians seated in semicircles, descant instruments in the front and lower instruments in the back. This creates new and fascinating textures and sounds. For the stage managers this creates a nightmare. Here are two pictures taken by our orchestral manager Maritta Hirvonen. In the first one the musicians of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra are desperately trying to locate their seats before the first rehearsal and in the second picture they are finally seated and the rehearsal is in process. The first Puumala orchestral CD will be released next spring to make sure that also his music will be heard 50 years from now.

We had also another composer present. Einojuhani Rautavaara (No. 11 on Lebrect´s list) had travelled from Helsinki to hear the Scandinavian premiere of his new "Incantations", concerto for percussion and orchestra. It meant a lot for us that he came, it was moving to see him there and an honour to play for him. Colin Currie was as impeccable as always. Such a pleasure to play with him. I´ll see him next time in Baltimore where "Incantations" gets the US premiere in April 2010.

A selection of songs by Sibelius was sung by Jorma Hynninen. It´s amazing how he always seems to find more new and surprising aspects of these popular songs. I just learned that he´s asked Kimmo Hakola to write him a new song cycle which he could perform in 2011 when he turns 70!

The first four months in Tampere are over and we are still getting along.



Rochester and back to Finland

There was a second week in the US. After the warm and sunny Atlanta I spent a musically rewarding week in more Scandinavian climate with the Rochester Philharmonic. Rochester is a city with an interesting history linked closely to the Eastman Kodak Company. The Kodak Concert Hall dates from early 1920´s and is both huge and acustically excellent. The Eastman School of Music is one of the most prestigious music institutes in America and the Philharmonic are working closely with the students of the school. As most of the Northern American cities Rochester is in the middle of a change in the economical infrastructure. I had an opportunity to meet the most enthusiastic donors and members of the board and got the impression that there is a bright future for the orchestra.

The Rochester Phil is a modern ensemble with lots of energy and will. I had a chance to spend some time with these people and was impressed on how much they care about their orchestra and the audience. In the concert "Cantus Arcticus" by Einojuhani Rautavaara found a new home in the spacious acoustics of the Kodak Hall. That piece never fails to move the public. We played also Shostakovich 1st Symphony. I´ve conducted this piece a lot during the last 12 months and think it´s time to let it rest for a while now and take a closer look at his other symphonies. The 11th comes with the Indianapolis Symphony in March 2010 and I´m seriously planning to program 2nd, 3rd and 4th in Tampere.

Augustin Hadelich played a convincing and moving version of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. I´ve known about Augustin for a long time but this was the first time we played together. There is something very special in his musicianship and I´m glad we have plans for the future.

I´ve been back to Finland for six days now and I´m still in the middle of an excruciating jet lag. The seven hour time zone difference is the worst. Combining that with the Piano Concerto and Capriccio by Stravinsky can be dangerous. This week we had Alexander Toradze playing those pieces in Tampere. I always learn a lot when playing with him and also this time was quite fenomenal. Stravinsky´s neoclassical works are usually played without warmth and soul. But not this time. There is so much beauty and deepness of thought behind that graphic background and Alexander Toradze showed us how to make all that audible. I´m deeply grateful for that.


Henk Badings

Few weeks ago I performed with the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic and harpist Lavinia Meijer. She is a talented and impressive harpist (there seems to be an increasing number of harp players making an international career: Xavier de Maistre, Emmanuel Ceysson and now Lavinia) and during the concert at the Concertgebouw she received the Dutch Music Prize. For her concerto she had chosen a piece by Dutch composer Henk Badings.

Badings (1907-1987) was born in Dutch East Indies and being largely self taught he developed an interesting and slightly syncretic style. I´ve been trying to find out about his career and life which seems to have been quite stormy and controversial though many conductors during his lifetime tried to champion his music. Luckily there seems to be some new recordings around.

I was positively surprised and delighted when I got the score of his harp concerto. Rehearsals and the concert made me convinced that Badings is a composer who needs more attention abroad. His style is light, harmonically interesting and everything is elegantly orchestrated. He also made use of overtone scales.

Finally this episode made me think of all those dozens composers from the 20th century who have or had a reputation and followers in their own countries but who are not very famous abroad. Maybe there was another composer at the same time who got more attention or maybe their champions forgot to play their music when they went abroad. Maybe there are not recordings or maybe the existing recordings are not good enough so that they could give a clear picture of a rare musical talent.

We have already good recordings of composers like Aarre Merikanto, Geir Tveitt, Allan Petterson, Percy Grainger, Henk Badings and Andrzej Panufnik, who were always too modern or too conservative for their own countries and time and whose fame diminished after their death. These composers and many others would deserve an international career, post mortem. This would of course mean that we conductors should sometimes let the classical, romantic or contemporary opening piece to go and replace it with something exciting and forgotten.