The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) celebrated its 80th anniversary in autumn 2007. Founded in 1927 as a ten-piece orchestra, it grew to 21 members in 1929, when it gave its first public concert. A decisive step was taken beyond Finland’s frontiers when it appeared in the series of "European Concerts" launched in 1931. These concerts were organised by the International Broadcasting Union (IBU), the predecessor of the post-war broadcasting unions. Finland's first European Concert was in 1933. For this the Radio Orchestra and the Helsinki Philharmonic joined forces under the direction of Armas Järnefelt. But the most memorable of all the radio broadcasts from Finland was that on New Year's Day 1939 celebrating the New York World Fair. Jean Sibelius took up the baton for the last time in his life to conduct the Orchestra in a performance of his Andante Festivo. The recording of this broadcast is the only remaining one of Sibelius as a conductor.
After the Second World War a new period of marked growth began and the Orchestra grew to 50 musicians, expanding further to 70 in 1953, when Nils-Eric Fougstedt was Chief Conductor. Fougstedt’s period was noted above all for the introduction of contemporary music, as important composers were invited to conduct the Orchestra in performances of their own music. In 1955 these included Paul Hindemith, who received the Sibelius Prize, and in 1961 Igor Stravinsky, then 79 years old, who also conducted a concert of his own works.
Contemporary music continues to hold a prominent position in the repertoire of the Orchestra, which has so far given first performances of more than 500 Finnish works. Nowadays, the Orchestra annually commissions three to four new works.
After Fougstedt’s death the position of Chief Conductor passed in 1962 to Paavo Berglund. Berglund’s decade meant a decisive improvement in the quality of the Orchestra and the beginning of its international career. The duties and the position of the Orchestra had to be re-evaluated and it was enlarged to 90 members. After its first trip abroad, to Leningrad in 1963, it received invitations from various countries and visited the German Democratic Republic, Estonia, Denmark and the UK. In honour of the 100th anniversary of Sibelius’s birth in 1965, performances were televised abroad for the first time.
Paavo Berglund was followed after 10 years as Chief Conductor by Okko Kamu in 1971 and by Leif Segerstam in 1977. In 1987 Jukka-Pekka Saraste became Chief Conductor and in 1989 the Orchestra made an extensive tour of the Far East followed by concerts in Copenhagen, Brussels and Germany.
Sakari Oramo was appointed Chief Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra as of August 2003, having earlier held the post of Associate Chief Conductor. He is also Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
With Sakari Oramo the Orchestra has recorded for the Finnish label Ondine music by Kimmo Hakola (the 100th FRSO release), Jouni Kaipainen, Magnus Lindberg, Uuno Klami, Ernst Mielck, Pehr Henrik Nordgren and others, and the debut disc of the opera Aslak Hetta by Armas Launis on a Lappish theme. Its disc of the third and fifth symphonies by Nordgren won the Académie Charles Cros Award in 2000 and that of works by Magnus Lindberg (with Kari Kriikku, clarinet, as the soloist) was singled out as the Record of the Year 2005 by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) and was nominated for the BBC Music Magazine Award 2006. It has also attracted considerable international attention, being voted one of the Records of the Year by The New York Times, The Financial Times and BBC Radio 3. In France, Le Monde de la Musique chose it as one of the 20 best recordings made last year (Les Chocs d l’annee 2005) and Classica-Repertoire as one of its Records of the Month for November 2005 (Editor’s Choice). It was Disc of the Month of America’s Classicstoday.com in November 2005 and CD of the Week of The Guardian in September 2005. In 2006 the disc won the most prestigious international honour of all for classical music: the Classic FM Gramophone Award. The most recent award was given to FRSO's and Lisa Batiashvili's new recording of Jean Sibelius' and Magnus Lindberg's Violin Concertos, which received the MIDEM Classical Award in 2008.
The FRSO has made discs of music by Kaija Saariaho with Jukka-Pekka Saraste and by Magnus Lindberg with Esa-Pekka Salonen. In early 2005 DGG released an FRSO recording of works by Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted by the composer. The FRSO and Jukka-Pekka Saraste have twice recorded the complete Sibelius symphonies; the first time with the violin concerto and other orchestral works for BMG on RCA Red Seal, and an acclaimed cycle for Finlandia (Warner Classics) that includes the Kullervo Symphony.
The Orchestra made its debut at the BBC Promenade Concerts in August 1991. This was the first time a Finnish orchestra had performed at the Proms, and it returned in 1997 and 2001. The next visit is scheduled for August 2006 and will be the first with Sakari Oramo conducting the FRSO. In 1993, its highly successful concerts at the prestigious Canaries Festival under the baton of Jukka-Pekka Saraste led to a regular presence at the Festival and reappearances in 1994, 1997 and 2002, returning in 2005 for the first time under Sakari Oramo. Since 1994, Viennese audiences have welcomed the FRSO on a regular basis: in 1996, twice in 1998 and again in April 2002. Oramo continued the tradition with the FRSO in autumn 2003. The 1998/99 season saw the Orchestra’s debut at the Edinburgh International Festival and a return visit to Japan. The Schleswig-Holstein Festival followed in August 2001, and the FRSO made its US debut in January 2003.
With Sakari Oramo the FRSO has appeared at the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm, in Vienna, Germany and Switzerland, at the Canaries Festival, in Spain and Japan, at the Bergen Music Festival in Norway, the Edinburgh Festival, at the Proms Festival in London and at the Prague Spring Festival.
The finalists were accompanied by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leif Segerstam, at the competition final on 12 August 2009 at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki and also at the prize winners´concert at Madetoja Hall, Oulu.
The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra