Programmes have now been announced for the 2017 Sibelius Festival in Lahti.
The Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s 18th International Sibelius Festival will take place at the Sibelius Hall from 30 August until 3 September 2017, and its artistic director is Dima Slobodeniouk, principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. There will also be a guest appearance by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali as well as chamber concerts and other events. This year’s theme is the centenary of Finland’s independence. The festival is also part of the national ‘Finland 100’ programme of events.
The Lahti Symphony Orchestra has invited the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra to perform at the concert in the Sibelius Hall on Friday 1 September 2017 as part of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s 18th International Sibelius Festival. The GSO will be conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali, the rising star conductor, originally from Lahti, who takes over as principal conductor in Gothenburg in autumn and will bring his new orchestra to his home town right away. It will be the first foreign visit by Rouvali together with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (the National Orchestra of Sweden).
The Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s 18th International Sibelius Festival will take place at the Sibelius Hall from 30 August until 3 September 2017, and its artistic director is Dima Slobodeniouk, principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the concert by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, there will be three concerts by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Slobodeniouk’s baton (Wednesday 30 August, Thursday 31 August and Saturday 2 September), as well as chamber concerts and other events. The theme of the programmes of music by Sibelius is the centenary of Finland’s independence, and the orchestral concerts will include, among other works, the Second and Fifth Symphonies, Spring Song, En saga, The Wood-Nymph and the Press Celebrations Music; further details of the repertoire will be announced shortly. The festival is also part of the national ‘Finland 100’ programme of events.
Dima Slobodeniouk, artistic director of the Sibelius festival, regards the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s visit as a landmark in the festival’s history: ‘One of Sibelius’s most important champions outside Finland was the composer and conductor Wilhelm Stenhammar, who was principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra from 1907 until 1922. When we speak of Finland’s independence, we should remember that the year 1917 marks an important phase in Sibelius’s life as well, when knowledge of his music was spreading rapidly internationally, and the Gothenburg orchestra played an important part in this’.
Sten Cranner, general manager and artistic director of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, says that the orchestra is genuinely honoured by and grateful for the invitation to perform at the Lahti Sibelius Festival in 2017. ‘Most of all because Jean Sibelius is so important for the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s repertoire, history and identity, but it’s certainly also very special for us in that we will make a guest appearance at the festival for the first time in Finland’s anniversary year. This will also be our very first concert outside Sweden with our new chief conductor, Santtu-Matias Rouvali.’
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, one of Europe’s most highly renowned symphony orchestras, was founded in 1905. The orchestra played Sibelius’s music for the first time in 1907, performing the Second Symphony under the baton of Armas Järnefelt. In the decades that followed, the Second Symphony featured on the orchestra’s programmes so often that it became an unofficial calling card.
In February 1911 Sibelius conducted his own music in Sweden for the first time, with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (in works including Pohjola’s Daughter and the Third Symphony), and in 1915 Sibelius’s only wartime trip abroad took him to Sweden, where he conducted his own music in Gothenburg. He visited Gothenburg again to conduct his own works in 1923, and dedicated his Sixth Symphony – completed that year – to Stenhammar. When Stenhammar died in 1927, Sibelius wrote: ‘In all my life I have never met such a noble and idealistic person as Wilhelm Stenhammar. I am proud that I could count myself among his friends. He meant so much to my art! How infinitely empty it feels now that he is no longer with us.
The orchestra’s strong Sibelius tradition continued even after Stenhammar’s time, for example with the conductor Neeme Järvi, who recorded two cycles of Sibelius symphonies in Gothenburg (for BIS and Deutsche Grammophon). Among the BIS Sibelius recordings are also numerous world premières, for instance of the opera The Maiden in the Tower, the Overtures in A minor and E major, Ballet Scene and Academic March.
The Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius Festival 2016 marked the beginning of a new era: the start of Dima Slobodeniouk’s tenure as principal conductor of the orchestra and artistic director of the festival.
The festival is now in its seventeenth year and took place on 8–11 September. For listeners it marked a leap into the unknown…
Just in time for the International Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Okko Kamu’s cycle of Sibelius symphonies with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra for BIS Records has been released on 3 SACDs (special price): BIS-2076. Martin Nagorni’s video interview with Okko Kamu about the recording can be seen here:
Dima Slobodeniouk has been appointed as principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, starting in the autumn of 2016. Slobodeniouk will also be artistic director of the orchestra’s annual Sibelius Festival. The City Board of the Lahti Municipality Association made the appointment at a meeting on 17th August 2015. Slobodeniouk’s contract will run until the spring season of 2019.
Slobodeniouk remarks: ‘When people ask me whether I have always wanted to be a conductor, more and more often my answer is: No, I have not. Despite me, growing up in a family of orchestra musicians, I simply had no idea what it is like to be a conductor. Today, when the fact of me taking over a position of Music Director of Lahti Symphony Orchestra becomes a reality, I once again realise, that being a conductor is what I want and what I live for.’
Slobodeniouk sees the forthcoming collaboration as a wonderful chance to develop musical relationships with the orchestra and audiences both in Lahti and internationally. ‘I was lucky enough to be able to build and maintain a very open and fruitful relationship with Lahti Symphony Orchestra ever since I first conducted them in 2001 replacing Leif Segerstam. Today – this is a big honour and a challenge for me to create something new on the foundation of a great orchestra tradition in Lahti’, says Slobodeniouk. ‘I believe and hope, that with our music making we can influence people’s lives regardless of their age or social background. The unique thing about classical music is the fact that it does not have to be verbalised or explained. That way it can reach and touch anyone.’
Teemu Kirjonen, General Manager of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, says: ‘After the triumphant chief conductorships of Vänskä, Saraste and Kamu, we are looking forward to our time with Slobodeniouk with great enthusiasm. On the basis of what the orchestra has already achieved with him in the past few years, we may expect great things in the future.’ Slobodeniouk already enjoys a major international career and, Kirjonen believes, having him as chief conductor will be an excellent springboard for the further development of the orchestra’s artistic level, and for the continuation of its touring and recording activities.
Petri Komulainen, chairman of the committee representing the players in the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, says that he is very proud and excited at the new appointment, and describes the orchestra as being on the threshold of a new era. ‘Slobodeniouk has close ties to Finland, combined with an international career that is very much on the up. I’m convinced that he will manage to bring a new, energetic perspective to the orchestra’s work, and that his performances will appeal to an ever wider audience.’
Moscow-born Dima Slobodeniouk has made Finland his home for over two decades. A former student at Helsinki’s prestigious Sibelius Academy, he began his conducting studies in 1994 under the tutelage of Leif Segerstam and Jorma Panula. Currently music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, he is a regular guest conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic and Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestras as well as London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris and the Netherlands, RAI Turin and Stuttgart Radio Philharmonic Orchestras. Slobodeniouk collaborates with many of today’s composers, among them Kalevi Aho, Sebastian Fagerlund, Jörg Widmann and Lotta Wennäkoski.
At the end of 2014 I was approached by the management of BBC Radio 3 to kick off their forthcoming contributions to the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius. On Thursday 1st January, at around 8.10 am, I was interviewed by Clemency Burton-Hill and asked to introduce my personal pièce de resistance, the Nocturne from the King Christian II Suite, and to explain my adoration of this magnificent work. I said that it contained a big memorable tune, that the orchestration was outstanding, i.e. cantabile strings, woodwind in pairs (cf. for instance the start of the second movement of the Violin Concerto) and brass-orientated climaxes; in other words for me it’s ‘a total goose-pimple extravaganza’ (Clemency loved that expression). I particularly wanted them to use the recording by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, as I had experienced them performing it ‘live’ at the 2003 Lahti Sibelius Festival. On top of that, I’d spoken at length to Osmo Vänskä about the merits of this glorious work overall the next day.
This can be found on the BBC Radio 3 website until 28th January 2015 – follow this link, and it starts around 01:40:40.
I wish all readers a wonderful 2015 and cannot wait to meet up with many of you for the ‘big one’ this year in Lahti.