Four of the best Finnish conductors
There is something in the water in Finland. Whether it is the wealth of conducting teachers or an education system that nurtures musical talent, there has been a relentless flow of exports of distinguished conductors from Finland in recent years. years. Many of them have taken the reins of major British orchestras – particularly the BBC, where they seem to continually take the top spots. We have selected four of the best Finnish conductors, all of whom have held conductor positions in BBC orchestras in recent years.
A former violinist, Sakari Oramo has been the conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra since the First Night of the Proms in 2013. During his tenure, he led the The last night of balls four times and has made popular recordings by composers such as Sibelius, Schmitt and Ethel Smyth. His other conducting positions included the Birmingham City Symphony Orchestra from 1996 to 2008, where his defense of English music was awarded the Elgar Medal. It is also conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, a position that will end at the end of the 2020/21 season. In October 2020, Oramo has extended his contract with the BBC Symphony Orchestra until the end of the BBC Proms in 2023.
Read our reviews of Sakari Oramo’s recordings here.
Osmo Vänskä arrived in Glasgow as Principal Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) in 1996, after being acclaimed as Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. His outstanding studio work with the Lahti Symphony for the BIS label continued with the BBC SSO, with whom he recorded all of Nielsen’s symphonies as well as works by James MacMillan. This work is now continuing with the Minnesota Orchestra, where Osmo Vänskä has been musical director since 2003.
Read our reviews of Osmo Vänskä’s recordings here.
In 2014, John Storgårds and the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic put their name on the shopping lists of many Sibelius fans when they released recordings of the Finnish composer’s seven symphonies, along with fragments of his unfinished eighth. Storgårds, whose former positions include Principal Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra (2006-09), has been the Principal / Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic since 2012, during which time they also made excellent recordings of symphonies by Nielsen and Antheil.
Read our reviews of John Storgårds recordings here.
After initial training as a violinist, Saraste studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy in the same class as Osmo Vänskä and Esa-Pekka Salonen. With Salonen, Saraste later founded Avanti! Chamber orchestra, specializing in contemporary music. Saraste has held important leadership positions in various European countries, including, from 2002 to 2005, as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Her 17 BBC Proms appearances include collaborating with percussionist Evelyn Glennie for James MacMillan’s 1992 world premiere Veni, Veni Emmanuel, and more recently a representation of Schoenberg’s powerful Gurrelieder in 2012.
Read our reviews of Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s recordings here.
Jorma Panula was the teacher who helped shape and shape the careers of almost all distinguished Finnish conductors, including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Osmo Vänskä and Sakari Oramo. In recent years he has also helped train Dalia Stasevska at the Sibelius Academy. Stasevska became principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra returns to Finland. She made history in 2020 when she conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the very first Last Night of the Proms in history without an audience at the Royal Albert Hall, thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. More public attention was on the event than usual, due to the fury online over the inclusion of “Rule, Britannia!” following the Black Lives Matter protest earlier this year and discussions about its colonialist position. We recently named him as one of the best Last Nights of the Proms in history. Also in 2020, Stasevska won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Best Conductor.
Top image: Sakari Oramo (credit: Benjamin Ealovega)