Rumon Gamba, the British Chief Conductor of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra, has once again designed a diverse programme for the orchestra’s autumn season, leaning upon both his own strengths and the performers’ wide repertoire. Gamba, known for his profound interpretations of the classical masterpieces of the English-speaking world, presents a selection of American music in Oulu. In addition, Finnish classics and contemporary works, as well as always-welcome masterpieces, populate the menu. In the beginning of the season, the Oulu Symphony Orchestra visits Sweden and Norway as part of the Arctic Pulse project. The soloist for these performances is one of Finland’s best-known contemporary violinists, Elina Vähälä. The Finnish Viola Society presents the National Viola Competition in Oulu at the end of September. The Oulu Symphony Orchestra accompanies the soloists throughout the finals, conducted by Erkki Lasonpalo.


The Hupisaaret Summer Theatre provides unique surroundings for concerts

For the third time, the hugely popular, free of charge outdoor event Oulu Sinfonia Open inaugurates the autumn season under Chief Conductor Rumon Gamba’s leadership. On Thursday, August 11, the Hupisaaret Summer Theatre lets audiences sample the themes of the season and the orchestra’s diversity in one succinct package. Paddington Bear’s concert for the whole family, My First Concert narrated by Aki Saarela, opens the evening. Roaring Twenties transports listeners to the world of familiar Broadway composers such as Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, and the latest of the trio, Evening Chill, offers some tastes of the evergreen classical repertoire.

Flyover Symphony is an evening dedicated to the music of composer Lauri Porra, also known as the bassist for Stratovarius, on Thursday August 25 at the Hupisaaret Summer Theatre. The brand new Northern Infinity premieres in this concert. The music of Porra’s band, Flyover Ensemble, is presented in a new symphonic arrangement, and the visual accompaniment created by photo and video artist Perttu Saksa adds to the atmosphere of the evening.

Madetoja Hall offers its share of new experiences as well. The concert on October 20, titled At the Edge of Madness, presents an ensemble of dance works put together by maestro Gamba. Leticia Moreno will perform as the featured soloist. The mood of the concert will develop from the initial minimalism of John Adams to Peter Maxwell Davies’s raucous wedding party, complete with a bagpipe solo.


Music in the key of stars and stripes

The Unforgettable Gershwin -concert on November 17 takes us to the heart of American music. On that date, the Oulu Symphony Orchestra performs with the German pianist Joseph Moog, much praised for his stylings reminiscent of the Golden Age of the piano. The evening is dedicated to George Gershwin and his jazz-influenced compositions, including the smash hits Rhapsody in Blue and the I Got Rhythm variations. The concert is reprised on November 19 as part of the Brahe Classica event.

The film music concert E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert (October 12 and 13) celebrates the 40th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s fantasy classic through a viewing of the entire movie on the screen. The Oulu Symphony Orchestra presents John Williams’s nostalgic score conducted by Anthony Gabrielle. This is the first time the film is performed in concert accompanied by a symphony orchestra in Finland.


Kaija Saariaho and other great Finns

Kaija Saariaho, perhaps the most important contemporary composer, celebrates her 70th birthday, and the Oulu Symphony Orchestra is there for the party. Conducted by Saariaho’s daughter Aliisa Neige Barriére, two of the virtuosa composer’s works are performed, with Norwegian violinist Peter Herresthal as the featured soloist. The Ring of Fire and Love, completed two years ago by rising star Outi Tarkiainen, opens the evening. This concert is part of the 2022 edition of the Ostrobothnian Contemporary Music Festival, which also features an international composition masterclass by Kaija Saariaho.

During the autumn, the orchestra also presents a sort of a miniature series of the symphonies of Jean Sibelius. Osmo Vänskä, known for his visionary interpretations of Sibelius’s work, will conduct the mystically tinged Fourth Symphony on Thursday, November 3. In the same concert, Jaakko Kuusisto’s incomplete symphony, finished by his brother Pekka Kuusisto, receives its Finnish premiere. Pianist Paavali Jumppanen, much praised for his mastery of Beethoven, performs his Fourth Piano Concerto. In the opening concert of the regular season, Rumon Gamba conducts the Fifth Symphonies of both Sibelius and Nielsen, and Lio Kuokman makes his Finnish debut with Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony. The soloist for the concert is pianist Mika Rännäli, recently returned to his native Oulu from New York.


Orchestral collaborations and celebrations

The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra celebrate their 50th anniversaries. During the last months of the year, the Oulu Symphony Orchestra will join forces with each. Sakari Oramo, Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, will conduct Sibelius’s most expansive work, the Kullervo Symphony that relates Kalevala’s most tragic destiny, in concerts in both Kokkola and Oulu. Tuija Knihtilä and Ville Rusanen feature as soloists, backed by the Polytech Choir. The autumn season’s final concert also features choral performance, as John Storgårds conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Here, the choir is the Helsinki Chamber Choir, with Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, Virpi Räisänen, Christian Juslin, and Markus Suihkonen serving as soloists. This concert will be performed in both Oulu and Rovaniemi.


The season’s favourites in Christmas Concert

Oulu’s Suvi Teräsniska, one of Finland’s most popular artists, celebrates a symphonic Christmas with the Oulu Symphony Orchestra with two Christmastime concerts featuring both songs from her own repertoire and familiar Christmas classics. The perennial Christmas favourite for the whole family, the film The Snowman, is presented along with Howard Blake’s score featuring the global hit Walking in the Air. The film version brings Christmas magic from each year and generation to the next, forming a crucial element of the Christmas traditions of many a family.

Text: Oulu Symphony Orchestra
Photo: Osmo Vänskä c Lisa-Marie Mazzucco