The Oulu Symphony Orchestra starts its November with the Finnish debut performance of Jaakko Kuusisto’s Symphony. The Oulu orchestra will also make visiting performances in Helsinki and Raahe.

A busy time is ahead for music lovers, as the Oulu Symphony Orchestra looks forward to an exceptionally packed November calendar. As early as the concert on Thursday, November 3, titled The First and the Last, a momentous occasion is at hand as the Symphony by Jaakko Kuusisto, the Oulu composer who passed away in February, is performed in Finland for the first time. Kuusisto left the work incomplete, but it was finished by his brother, the violinist and conductor Pekka Kuusisto, in time for its premiere in Minnesota in June.

The concert also features what is perhaps Jean Sibelius’s grimmest work, his Fourth Symphony, created while the composer was fighting for his life through a number of serious throat surgeries. The evening’s solo performance is by Paavali Jumppanen, performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, maybe the most upbeat of his concerto works. Osmo Vänskä, one of the most internationally renowned Finnish conductors, holds the baton for this concert.

Paavali Jumppanen visits also in A Chamber Dream -concerts by Oulu Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Musicians on Friday, November 4 (Oulu University, Saalastinsali) and Saturday, November 5 (Tulindberg Hall). The series of admission free chamber concerts continues with the piano quartet by Johannes Brahms and piano quintet by Antonín Dvořák.

Jazz and jazz-like things

Halfway through November, the Oulu Symphony Orchestra is swinging to jazz tunes – with two different concert performances, no less. On Thursday, November 10, the orchestra joins with the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra to perform the works of singer-composer Theo Bleckmann, with himself as soloist, in Madetoja Hall. The programme also includes beloved jazz standards along with classics of pop and show tunes. The orchestral arrangements are by Fumio Yasuda, Miho Hazama, Artturi Rönkä as well as Ed Partyka, the UMO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director who also conducts the orchestra on the evening. This performance is a repeat of that heard at Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki the previous day.

Mr. Bleckmann (b. 1966), originally from Germany, has collaborated with such luminaries as Dave Douglas, Ambrose Akinmusire, Uri Cane, and John Hollenbeck, along with composing music for films and TV shows, singing in musicals, and performing as a vocalist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 2010, he received the Echo Jazz prize and was nominated for a Grammy award. Apart from his own compositions, he has recorded an album of Kate Bush’s music.

The Unforgettable Gershwin concert on Thursday, November 17, serves up a somewhat more vintage collection of swing from the 1920s and 1930s as the Oulu Symphony Orchestra regales Madetoja Hall with an evening of George Gershwin’s music. The style of this American composer reaches out from Broadway musical theatre all the way to traditional operatic and symphonic works. Chief Conductor Rumon Gamba directs a performance of some of Gershwin’s best known works, including the symphonic poem An American in Paris as well as an orchestral suite based on the opera Porgy and Bess. Rhapsody in Blue and The I Got Rhythm Variations feature the virtuoso piano work of the German Joseph Moog. The orchestra will present another iteration of this programme at Raahesali Hall on Saturday, November 19 as part of the Brahe Classica festival.

The Christmas season begins to the music of Teräsniska

The Oulu Symphony Orchestra inaugurates its Christmas season on November 23 and 24 with two concerts featuring the singer Suvi Teräsniska at Madetoja Hall. The orchestra is complemented by Teräsniska’s backing band. The concerts also feature the pianist Leri Leskinen and the guitarist Peter Enberg, and are conducted by Antti Rissanen. The programme includes orchestral arrangements of Christmas classic as well as several new songs heard on Teräsniska’s Christmas album of last year, Tämä maailma tarvitsee joulun.

At the turn of November and December, more Christmas nostalgia is on offer as the Oulu Symphony Orchestra presents the animated film The Snowman written by Raymond Briggs with music by Howard Blake. This fairy tale, shown on television virtually every year since 1982, will be shown on screen accompanied by live music in a number of concert performances.

Text: Oulu Symphony Orchestra
Photo: Jaakko Kuusisto, c. Jussi Snicker