Story of the Tapiola Sinfonietta

A municipal orchestra was established in Espoo in 1987. A crack team of young professional musicians was recruited that soon turned into a bright new star in the orchestral firmament both in Finland and internationally. In 1991, the orchestra renamed itself the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

About half of the founding members are still with the orchestra. They have delighted listeners in Espoo on thousands of occasions, toured concert halls in dozens of countries and made nearly 70 recordings.

These snapshots over a period of 30 years were compiled by Hanna Kosonen and Jussi Valanki.



“Enough speeches, time now for music”

(Länsiväylä 9 December)

On 7 November 1982, the Länsiväylä newspaper published an opinion piece by Veikko Sjöblom entitled ‘A municipal orchestra for Espoo’, advocating for the first time the establishing of a new orchestra. In January 1983, Sjöblom and 51 other city councillors tabled an initiative that, after an extensive and sometimes fiery public debate taking up 44 column-metres in the press, led to the City Council’s decision in May 1984 to establish the Espoo City Orchestra. General Manager Hannele Rantamäki and conductor Jorma Panula took up their posts in August 1986 and appointed the musicians of the Espoo City Quartet, which first met on 1 February 1987 and gave its first recital at the chamber music winter festival on 18 February. Further musicians were engaged through 15 auditions during the year, and in August the 30-member Espoo City Orchestra began to rehearse under Jorma Panula and Juhani Lamminmäki. The orchestra gave school concerts and ‘audition concerts’ to find a flute player.

The Espoo City Orchestra gave its first public performance under Juhani Lamminmäki at the City of Espoo reception on Independence Day [6 December], and at the end of the year its members participated in a performance of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at Tapiola Church (‘Christmas Oratorio brought Christmas joy’. Leena Santalahti, Länsiväylä 27 December).

Kuvassa Espoon kaupunginorkesterin alttoviulun äänenjohtajaksi valittu Janne Saari soittaa Jorma Panulan johtaman uuden kaupunginorkesterin solistina Karakallion monitoimitalon Musica-salissa 20.4.1987.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“An energetic debut”

(Marcus Castrén, Länsiväylä 2 March)

The year 1988 was a period of consolidation for the orchestra. The orchestra’s wind quintet gave its first recital, and the orchestra as a whole gave its proper debut concert at Tapiola Church on 29 February, with Jorma Panula as conductor and Marko Ylönen as cello soloist. The Espoo City Orchestra rehearsed mainly at the Karakallio multi-function centre at this time and gave concerts every two weeks on average. Each programme was performed two or three times, mainly in churches in Espoo. Performances were also given in the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki, including Beethoven’s complete piano concertos in two concerts under Osmo Vänskä with Risto Lauriala as soloist. The orchestra was invited to perform at the Karjaa International Guitar Festival and collaborated with the Helsinki Festival and the Nordic Brass Symposium.

Jorma Panula resigned as artistic director in the summer, leaving Juhani Lamminmäki in charge as of the autumn.

“Enthuasiasm and quality. Precision work by the Espoo Orchestra”

(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 15 September)

Concerts given by the Espoo City Orchestra were well covered in the press, and the new ensemble received positive and encouraging reviews. Guest conductors included Eli Goren, Peter Csaba and Christopher Warren-Green; soloists included prominent Finnish musicians along with Nachum Erlich, James Galway, Christian Lindberg and Harvey Phillips. Some of the orchestra’s members also appeared as soloists: Marko Ylönen, Hanna Juutilainen, Jorma Valjakka, Harri Mäki, Bridget Allaire-Mäki, Pasi Pihlaja, Jaana Haanterä and Merit Palas.

Orkesterin jäseniä Espoon tuomiokirkon pihalla.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“The happy state of the Espoo City Orchestra
An orchestra with a dream home”

(Heljä Salonen, Iltalehti 27 February)

The Espoo Cultural Centre was completed, providing the orchestra with a permanent home in Tapiola Hall. The opening ceremony of the Cultural Centre on 21 May featured the world premiere of Mikko Heiniö’s Genom kvällen [Through the evening] to poetry by Bo Carpelan, conducted by Juhani Lamminmäki with the Tapiola Chamber Choir and with Liisa Pohjola as piano soloist. This work was also included on the orchestra’s first CD together with Cantos I–III and the song cycle Die Liebenden by Einojuhani Rautavaara, the latter with Soile Isokoski as soloist. In this year, the orchestra recorded a second CD containing works by Sibelius, conducted by Juhani Lamminmäki with Leonidas Kavakos as violin soloist. The orchestra gave 44 concerts (37 in 1988), and the number of listeners doubled to more than 11,000. The Culture Committee approved a plan to extend the orchestra to a full-scale ensemble with double winds and percussion by 1993. Outi Mattila was hired as Assistant General Manager as the number of administrative posts was increased.

“Espoo City Orchestra dazzled, but with an absence of listeners”

(Veijo Murtomäki, Helsingin Sanomat 27 January)

Low attendance caused puzzlement, and possible explanations given included repertoire choices and venues: the Espoo City Orchestra continued to perform at multiple venues around Espoo, and also at venues such as Martinus Hall in Vantaa. On 14 December, Seppo Heikinheimo wrote in Helsingin Sanomat about a concert conducted by Christopher Warren-Green at Tapiola Hall with a programme of Haydn and Mozart: “By the way, I believe that it is becoming increasingly clear that the establishing of the Espoo City Orchestra was a mistake. This was pretty much the best concert that one could expect to hear in the Helsinki metropolitan area…, yet there were only a couple of hundred people in the audience.” Heikinheimo proposed that the orchestra’s budget should be channelled to supporting the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and to alternating concerts by Finnish popular singers Vesa-Matti Loiri and Katri-Helena.

“Delightful double bass solo by Panu Pärssinen”

(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 14 September)

Soloist appearances by orchestra members continued, this year by Riitta Pesola, Bridget Allaire-Mäki, Jorma Valjakka, Pasi Pihlaja, Panu Pärssinen, Jukka Rantamäki and Timo Holopainen. The orchestra’s wind quintet participated in a competition in Munich and reached the semi-finals. A diverse chamber music marathon was held in October. Guest conductors included Igor Bezrodny, Leon Spierer, Lev Markiz and Leif Segerstam. There were a number of conductors who also performed as soloists: Jean-Jacques Kantorow (violin), Antony Pay (clarinet) and Christopher Warren-Green (violin) Espoo City Orchestra performed Handel’s Messiah at Sysmän Suvisoitto Festival and continued to collaborate with the Helsinki Festival in a concert with Olli Mustonen as soloist.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“Osmo Vänskä and the tones of autumn”

(Aarne Toivonen, Länsiväylä 9 September)

Osmo Vänskä took up the post of artistic director at the beginning of August, and the first concert conducted by him was at the Crusell Week in Uusikaupunki, a festival dedicated to wind music; the Espoo City Orchestra was the festival’s first guest orchestra. Back home, the orchestra first performed under Vänskä at the 200th anniversary concert of orchestras in Finland, the programme including Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Trio Finlandia as soloists. During the autumn, the new artistic director conducted four concerts and a CD with works by Crusell.

Tero Latvala became Leader and also rehearsed the orchestra’s Independence Day concert.


“Expressive crack team from Espoo”

(Katariina Pikkarainen, Savon Sanomat 8 March)

The orchestra’s first domestic tour was conducted by Juhani Lamminmäki with an orchestra member, cellist Tuija Rantamäki, as soloist and included concerts in Kuopio, Mikkeli and Kuusankoski. The tour was well received. Other orchestra members who appeared as soloists during the year were Pasi Pihjala, Merit Palas, Tommi Mentu, Bridget Allaire-Mäki, Marko Ylönen, Riitta Pesola and Janne Saari. Many guest conductors from previous years revisited; other soloists included violinists Liana Isakadze, Ilya Kaler and Ilya Grubert, pianist Kalle Randalu and horn player Sören Hermansson.


“A sour smorgasbord
The Espoo orchestra is still in search of a consistent policy
…only a handful of people in the hall”
(Seppo Heikinheimo, Helsingin Sanomat 25 January)

“Unprejudiced and elegant
…A considerable crowd even though there was no Classical-Romantic
favourite symphony or concert on the programme”
(Aarne Toivonen, Länsiväylä 28 January)

(Reviews of the concert on 23 January with Barber, Copland and Klami on the programme)

Repertoire choices continued to prompt debate. Attendance increased by a third during the year, the average audience size per concert being about 420. The orchestra reached out to a wider audience with concerts of young soloists, concert balls, a family concert and a UNICEF Christmas concert. Other special concerts included a series of three concerts featuring Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, with Anssi Mattila conducting at the harpsichord. The orchestra performed again at the Espoo chamber music winter festival and organised an autumn series of chamber music recitals.

Towards the end of the year, after administrative wrangling and public debate, the orchestra was authorised to perform under the name of Tapiola Sinfonietta.

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“A breathtaking Rite of Spring”
(Seppo Heikinheimo, Helsingin Sanomat 15 March)

The Tapiola Sinfonietta joined forces with the Lahti City Orchestra to perform Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring under Osmo Vänskä. The soloist number on the programme was Serge Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante with cellist Arto Noras. Other soloists this year included Aleksei Lyubimov, Håkan Hardenberger, Cho-Liang Lin, Natalia Gutman, Ib Lanzky-Otto, Miriam Fried, Torleif Thedéen and star soprano Elly Ameling, who appeared at the Mozart anniversary concert. Guest conductors included Sergiu Comissiona, Pierre Bartholomée, Andres Mustonen and violinist-conductors Jean-Jacques Kantorow and Viktor Tretyakov. Leader Tero Latvala conducted one concert, with orchestra member Harri Mäki as soloist.


“Brilliant Handel from Tapiola
so thanks … for a performance that was technically
and stylistically among the best in our country.”
(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 12 May)

In the spring, the orchestra performed Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt with the Tapiola Chamber Choir and soloists under Harry Christophers. Two other major choral works were also performed in the spring, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (Cantatas IV–VI) and Mozart’s Mass in C minor, with Jubilate and Dominante as the choirs. For financial reasons, performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at the end of the year was abandoned and replaced with a ‘Christmas Baroque’ concert under Anssi Mattila. Family concerts were held in the spring and in the autumn, and a May Day Eve concert was introduced as a new features. In an administrative change, Sirpa Hietanen became the General Manager.


“World-class Finnish
… the Tapiola Sinfonietta is a world-class ensemble.
Can anyone play Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony better?”
(Jan Andersen, Politiken 10 June)

On its first foreign tour, the orchestra travelled to Oslo, Køge and Copenhagen. The conductor was Osmo Vänskä, and the soloist was Olli Mustonen. The reception was overwhelmingly positive by critics and audiences alike.

The Tapiola Sinfonietta continued to collaborate with the Helsinki Festival and made its first appearance at the Naantali Music Festival at the 70th anniversary concert of composer Joonas Kokkonen.

In the spring of this year, Finland’s first piano music festival emerged with the founding of the Espoo International Piano Week. At this festival, the Tapiola Sinfonietta performed Mozart’s Piano Concertos in F major K453 and B flat major K595 with Eero Heinonen as soloist and Symphony no. 36, all under Kjell Seim.

Kuvassa orkesterin puupuhaltimien äänenjohtajat: Pasi Pihlaja (vas.), Bridget Allaire-Mäki, Hanna Juutilainen ja Tommi Mentu

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta


“The brilliance of the Tapiola Sinfonietta is fading”
(Hannele Rantamäki, Espoo 3/1992)

Cost cuts by the City of Espoo hampered the orchestra’s operations. The long-planned tour of Japan was cancelled, and the number of concerts was reduced. Spending limits were imposed on engaging soloists and conductors for the autumn. Osmo Vänskä resigned his post after the spring, and for the rest of the year the orchestra had no artistic director. A dark future was foreseen, and a mass exodus of musicians was feared, but concerts went on as before. “It is a joy to live in the city of the Sinfonietta,” wrote a ‘Sincerely Grateful Listener’ in Länsiväylä on 22 November, praising the soloist-level qualities of the musicians and how the orchestra’s concerts offered an escape from everyday life.


“Greatest hits of the Tapiola Choir on anniversary disc”
(Ilta-Sanomat 15 May)

The Sinfonietta recorded a new version of the disc Sininen ja valkoinen [Blue and white] with the Tapiola Choir for the Ondine label and another disc of choral music. Two further albums were recorded under Osmo Vänskä for BIS: a disc of music by Aulis Sallinen and a disc of trombone concertos, with Christian Lindberg as the soloist.

Orchestra members Tommi Mentu and Riitta Pesola performed as soloists, and guest soloists included Dmitri Alekseyev, Liana Isakadze, Mihaela Martin, Roland Pöntinen, Edith Mathis and Dmitri Bashkirov. Osmo Vänskä conducted 12 concerts during the year; guest conductors included Frank Shipway, Moshe Atzmon, Paavo Järvi, János Fürst and Lev Markiz.


“…When an operetta orchestra sounds as smooth
as the Tapiola Sinfonietta, operetta begins to
transform into art and culture…”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 12 October)

The Sinfonietta, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, performed a programme of opera and popular music at the hugely successful MTV gala with soloists Karita Mattila, Matti Salminen, Seppo Ruohonen and Tamara Lund. Young music students in Espoo were auditioned to perform at a young soloists’ concert, and the Sinfonietta also accompanied the finalists of the Maj Lind Piano Competition in the concert hall of the Sibelius Academy. During the year, the orchestra visited the Oulu Music Festival, Lohja and Hämeenlinna and performed at the first ever International Choral Espoo festival. In May, the orchestra performed outdoors in Tapiola and at the ‘village fair’ in Käpylä.


“The Tapiola Sinfonietta began its autumn
with an unprecedented smash hit”
(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 10 September 1993)

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons conducted by Jean-Jacques Kantorow filled the house at the autumn’s first concert. Kantorow, the new artistic director, commended the mental flexibility of the musicians and hoped that decision-makers in Espoo would have the sense to use this top-notch orchestra for gaining an international reputation.

Soloists during the year included Soile Isokoski, Tom Krause, Monica Groop, Jan-Erik Gustafsson, Leonidas Kavakos, Duncan McTier and Michala Petri, and orchestra members Hanna Juutilainen and Bridget Allaire-Mäki.

In August, the Sinfonietta performed with contralto Nathalie Stutzmann and soprano Elisabeth Vidal under Gilbert Varga at the Antibes Music Festival in France. The visit was widely praised, and the orchestra was immediately invited to return to the festival in the following year.

Kuvassa taiteellinen johtaja Jean-Jaques Kantorow.

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“The orchestra took a risk and won”
(Heljä Salonen, Iltalehti 18 November)

The Tapiola Sinfonietta was put on net budgeting, which meant that the orchestra was now required to acquire part of its funding through profitable operations. The sizable cut in public funding forced the orchestra to implement savings and to sell concerts to various clients, from the Office of the President of the Republic to a power company. Chamber music performances were held in unexpected places, and active measures were undertaken to attract new audiences. Young listeners were targeted, and members of the orchestra visited schools to give concerts. This collective effort by the entire staff paid off: attendance grew by more than a third, to 28,000, and the orchestra stayed on budget.

In addition to this ‘official volunteering’, orchestra members performed for free at a charity benefit concert for the war-torn people of the former Yugoslavia. The idea was proposed by oboist Tommi Mentu.


“Opera Espoo showed the Finnish National Opera
how to go modern… Such vivacious and breezy
music-making is more than the Orchestra of the
Finnish National Opera can currently even dream of.”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 18 October)

The Tapiola Sinfonietta participated in the first production staged by Opera Espoo, Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff. The conductor was Pekka Savijoki, and the director was Tony Wuorinen. The cast included Hannu Niemelä, Petteri Salomaa and Päivi Nisula. Other successful collaborations included performing at the Espoo Piano Week with Ralf Gothóni as soloist and conductor and a concert with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra featuring Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy and Salonen. The concert at Tampere Hall was conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, with Olli Mustonen and Jorma Valjakka as soloists. The capacity crowd cheered the performance with shouts of bravo! even in mid-piece.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“Tapiola Sinfonietta to shut up shop”
(Hannele Tarkka-Tierala, Helsingin Sanomat 26 October)

The second year of net budgeting plunged the orchestra into financial difficulties, as it failed to raise the matched funding required, it played ‘too many’ concerts, and the money ran out before the year was finished. A two-week temporary layoff was mooted but cancelled at the last minute. The Sinfonietta’s many musician friends came to the rescue, and in November a benefit concert was held to boost the orchestra’s economy. The Tapiola Hall was packed at this five-hour marathon, which featured soloists such as Soile Isokoski, Monica Groop, Kari Kriikku, Jan-Erik Gustafsson and Marko Ylönen.


“Baby orchestra wants to go out into the world
Bright and bubbly and suitably mature, the
Tapiola Sinfonietta is ready to conquer the world –
if only someone would pay for it.”
(Minna Lindgren, RONDO 30 May)

Tours were out of the question because of the orchestra’s constrained finances, but the orchestra did nevertheless visit the piano festival at La Roque d’Anthéron in France, playing sold-out concerts to nearly 6,000 listeners. There was also a concert in Tallinn, and the orchestra’s wind quintet performed in Belgium and France. In Finland, the orchestra performed in Kuusankoski and Turku, at the Naantali Music Festival and at the Helsinki Festival. Despite the dire straits, the orchestra gave wonderful concerts during the year and, as in previous years, received much acclaim in the media. Orchestra members Pasi Pihlaja, Tero Latvala, Harri Mäki, Panu Pärssinen, Mikko Pitkäpaasi and Tommi Mentu appeared as soloists.


“The final stretch of Kontrapunkt
…The Tapiola Sinfonietta has been praised
throughout the Nordic countries. The City of Espoo
has a gem on its hands and should take care of it.”
(Marja Sjöberg, Aamulehti 29 March)

The Sinfonietta performed under Tuomas Ollila in the popular Nordic music quiz TV show Kontrapunkt. The orchestra gained both international attention and domestic audiences, having no fewer than four performances on TV and radio during the year. Also, attendance at regular concerts continued to grow, to almost 33,000. The orchestra’s uncompromising attitude and high artistic quality finally found official recognition, as the 1994 Arts Award of the Province of Uusimaa was given to the Tapiola Sinfonietta on 1 January 1995.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“A magnificent Bartók night from Tapiola
Certain guest conductors have shone a new light
on the Tapiola Sinfonietta, but it is never
more brilliant than under the electrifying baton
of Jean-Jacques Kantorow.”
(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 26 March)

The orchestra’s collaboration with artistic director Jean-Jacques Kantorow had an ever more perceptive impact in the form of a continuous improvement of the orchestra’s artistic quality, and concert reviews remained highly positive. Recordings spread awareness of the orchestra abroad, but financial difficulties persisted. Though no funding was available for foreign or even domestic tours, the orchestra self-funded a trip to London, performing with Kantorow as conductor and soloist at St John’s Smith Square for an audience including London agents.


“The Tapiola Sinfonietta is
a star in the firmament of concert stages”
(Kemira 3/95)

The Sinfonietta signed a significant three-year sponsorship deal with Kemira, an international chemical corporation that sought a softening component for its corporate profile. The headline sponsor maintained a presence in the orchestra’s printed materials, in the slogan ‘Music is the chemistry of notes’ and with the publication of articles about the orchestra in the domestic and international Kemira newsletters. The year was otherwise heavy on cooperation, as the Sinfonietta engaged in four projects with the Finnish National Opera and also collaborated with the Helsinki Festival, the Espoo Ciné film festival, the Espoo Cultural Centre, the Dominante chamber choir and the Espoo Music Institute.


“A real diva – Wonderful!”
(Leena Santalahti, Länsiväylä 26 March)

A disc of schlagers and showtunes was recorded with Karita Mattila as soloist under Pekka Savijoki on the Ondine label. It became a great success, selling gold.

Despite the continuing tight finances, there were many unforgettable concerts, with soloists such as violinist Jaime Laredo and tenor Robert Tear, who also conducted their respective concerts.

Orchestra members Ulla Soinne, Jaakko Luoma, Harri Mäki, Hanna Juutilainen and Bridget Allaire-Mäki appeared as soloists, and Juha Nikkola conducted the orchestra.

Young audiences were especially catered to during the year, with 10 concerts at daycare centres and schools and 11 dress rehearsals attended by some 1,800 schoolchildren. The Sinfonietta was also one of four Finnish orchestras to participate in the London Sinfonietta Education pilot outreach project; the participating members were Jukka Rantamäki, Panu Pärssinen and Tommi Mentu, and students from the Sibelius Academy were also involved.

Kuvassa orkesterin jäseniä kehonhuoltoharjoituksissa Kulttuurikeskuksen lämpiössä.

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta




“The Tapiola Sinfonietta’s Bartók sets a new benchmark
It is hard to imagine a disc better than this!”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 30 September)

The audio and video recording agreement signed during the year allowed for five recording projects. Three discs were recorded for the BIS label under Jean-Jacques Kantorow, featuring music by Uuno Klami, Camille Saint-Saëns and Arvo Pärt. Two discs of solo songs were recorded for the FINLANDIA label. The Bartók disc released during the year, with orchestra member Hanna Juutilainen as flute soloist and Jean-Jacques Kantorow conducting, was named as one of the best CDs of 1996 by the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.


“Tapiola Sinfonietta on fine form again
Sibelius Competition winner Pekka Kuusisto’s performance
was enjoyed by audience and performer alike.”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 8 February)

The Sinfonietta made a successful domestic tour with Pekka Kuusisto as soloist and Jean-Jacques Kantorow as conductor. All the tour concerts were sold out, and the concluding concert in Espoo was given an instant repeat performance on the same night because of the huge demand. There were further fine moments in the performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Paulus under Juhani Lamminmäki with the Suomen Laulu choir and soloists Soile Isokoski, Lilli Paasikivi, Christian Elsner and Petteri Salomaa. Collaboration with the Cultural Centre continued, with a new feature, a series of public talks entitled Musiikista puheen ollen [Talking about music], one of the guests being composer Erik Bergman.

The orchestra’s resources improved with the adding of two woodwind positions. The administration changed too, as Satu Angervo was appointed as the new General Manager.


“Pulsing rhythm, glowing sound
…the absence of the ‘third wheel’ aka the conductor
intensified the mood considerably.”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 10 December)

Reviewers repeatedly remarked on the orchestra’s practice of performing without a conductor. In 1996, there were no fewer than eight conductorless concerts, with soloist-conductors such as Ralf Gothóni, Frans Helmersson, Joseph Swensen and Kyung Wha Chung. The financial situation had improved, allowing more international guests to be invited; soloists included Miriam Fried, the Raschér Saxophone Quartet, Pavel Vernikov and Thomas Zehetmair, the latter also conducting his concert.

Orchestra members Asko Heiskanen, Tero Latvala, Jaakko Luoma and Riitta Pesola appeared as soloists.

Sellistit Jukka Kaukola (vas.) ja Janne Aalto

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“A sound that dazzles the conductor
Kantorow considers that the quality of the Tapiola
Sinfonietta is due to the orchestra itself.
…Kantorow is happy with the excellent team
spirit of the orchestra and its rapid rise to
become a flexible and versatile virtuoso orchestra.”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 31 October)

The tenth year of the Sinfonietta was a success. The orchestra’s fruitful collaboration with Jean-Jacques Kantorow continued with a third two-year appointment. Wonderful Finnish and foreign visiting conductors and soloists together with a well considered repertoire policy guaranteed robust growth in attendance and a continuing string of favourable reviews. Orchestra members continued to appear as soloists, this year featuring Bridget Allaire-Mäki, Tero Latvala, Harri Mäki and Pasi Pihlaja.


“Back to the future
– the composer in the orchestra”

The Sinfonietta participated in a project run by the Association of Finnish Symphony Orchestras and the Finnish Music Information Centre where 14 Finnish orchestras appointed a Composer-in-Residence. The Tapiola Sinfonietta chose Juhani Nuorvala, the justifications for the selection including his capacity for thinking outside the box. One of the duties specified for the Composer-in-Residence was to participate in the projects aimed at young people in which the orchestra continued to engage in close cooperation with schools.


“Creation opens Naantali Festival
And it’s off with a bang”
(Matti Lehtonen, Turun Sanomat 10 June)

In the summer, the orchestra appeared at several music festivals, participating in performances of Haydn’s Creation in Naantali and Bach’s Mass in B minor in Savonlinna – both under Peter Schreier – and giving two concerts at the Turku Music Festival under Jean-Jacques Kantorow. The festival summer concluded with two concerts at the Helsinki Festival. There were no foreign tours, but the successful Pärt disc prompted a concert invitation to Paris for spring 1998, and a tour of Japan was also negotiated for the following year.

The community impact study commissioned by the City of Espoo demonstrated the brilliant results that the orchestra had achieved over the past nine years: the Tapiola Sinfonietta was found to be one of the most prominent Espoo brands.

Yleisötyötä koulussa.

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“A fanfare for the Tapiola Sinfonietta
A full house, an intense mood, applause and cheers, sparkling wine for everyone in the interval – a lavish celebration for the tenth anniversary of the Tapiola Sinfonietta, and with good reason. But the best thing of all was the music, an enjoyment of the orchestra’s legendary ensemble work…”
(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 20 April)

Having come into being in the 1987–1988 season, the orchestra now celebrated its tenth anniversary. It had achieved a high level of quality through uncompromising work and unbridled enthusiasm, and its achievements were noted with acclaim in the media. Soloists and conductors included top Finnish and international names, and orchestra members also continued to distinguish themselves as soloists.

“Sinfonietta in Paris –
sold-out concert”

(EH, Länsiväylä 8 March)

The Sinfonietta gave its first-ever performance in Paris under Jean-Jacques Kantorow, performing music by Arvo Pärt to a capacity crowd of nearly 1,000. Another international merit was notched up with a tour of five major cities in Japan. In Finland, the orchestra launched a prominent marketing campaign for its 10th anniversary year, including outdoor advertising. Also, several cultural operators in Espoo came up with the idea of a ‘cultural bus’, decorated to resemble a tiger, driving between Helsinki and Espoo and distributing information about cultural events. In this year, the Tapiola Sinfonietta set a new record for attendance at 41,500.

Harjoitukset Tokion Suntory Hallissa.

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta


“Motivated and sensitive Tapiola Sinfonietta
performed an enchanting guest concert”
(Pirjo Nenola, Iisalmen Sanomat 4 February)

Early in the year, the orchestra toured in Finland, performing with conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow and soloist Jaakko Luoma in Järvenpää, Tampere, Kuhmo and Iisalmi. Repeats of three concerts were given at Järvenpää Hall during the year. In March, the Sinfonietta under Jean-Jacques Kantorow and with Monica Groop as soloist performed at the 10th anniversary concert of the Espoo Cultural Centre. There were six chamber music recitals, including guest ensembles Battalia and Zagros Ensemble. Matinees were introduced and warmly received, and a family concert based on repertoire requests from audience members was held in the spring. The year concluded with the Joulukuusisto [Christmas Kuusisto] concert, which proved hugely successful.

“Sinfonietta and self-management
…We didn’t want to appoint an artistic director,
because it’s time for the orchestra to raise its own profile,
says (Leader Tero) Latvala.”
(Kaisa Iitti, Helsingin Sanomat 8 September)

The orchestra assigned artistic responsibility to a management group consisting of the General Manager and two orchestra members, the first to be appointed to the latter duties being Tero Latvala and Hanna Juutilainen. A programme advisory board was also set up to guide repertoire selection, and Tuomas Ollila was appointed to share conducting duties with Jean-Jacques Kantorow.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“Composer-in-Residence seeks contact
between composer, orchestra and audience”
(Kari-Otso Nevaluoma, Länsiväylä 28 May)

Eero Hämeenniemi was appointed as Composer-in-Residence to the orchestra, promising such innovations as dancers at concerts and new types of concert. The orchestra’s resources improved with the new millennium, a permanent percussion position being gained along with principal trumpet and trumpet positions. Also, pay for musicians was augmented to match that of other symphony orchestras in the Helsinki metropolitan area. An electronic newsletter was launched in the autumn.


“Space for musicians, powered-up instruments
In Kimmo Pohjonen’s composition,
orchestra musicians improvise and the
violins receive electric shocks.”
(Pirkko Kotiranta, Helsingin Sanomat 10 November)

The Sinfonietta participated in a performance of accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen’s KalmukkisinFonia at the Savoy Theatre and also appeared at several Finnish music festivals and gave the headline concert at the Nordlys Festival in Tromsø in Norway. Sinfonia Lahti made an appearance in the orchestra’s season ticket concert series in February, and the Sinfonietta similarly visited the concert series of the Helsinki Philharmonic in the autumn. In addition to regular conductors Jean-Jacques Kantorow and Tuomas Ollila, the orchestra was conducted by Okko Kamu, Osmo Vänskä, John Storgårds, Peter Schreier and Sakari Oramo. In September, the orchestra joined forces with the Ostrobothnia Chamber Orchestra at the Helsinki Festival, where the orchestra was conducted for the first time by Paavo Berglund.

KalmukkisinFonian kantaesitys Savoy-salissa..

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta.



“Tapiola Sinfonietta inspires in Washington”
(Helsingin Sanomat 27 January)

The orchestra made its US début in January, performing Sibelius, Schnittke and Schubert at the John F. Kennedy Center, with Tero Latvala conducting from his Leader position and Ralf Gothóni as soloist. The Washington Post described the strings as having a silken sheen and the winds as being down to earth, virtuosic and highly expressive.

The most interesting guest performers in the spring were the Indian modern dance company Daksha Sheth, appearing in a programme of works by Eero Hämeenniemi, the orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence.


“A broadside of Bach”
(Olavi Kauko, Helsingin Sanomat 31 October)

Violin concertos and other works by J.S. Bach were recorded with Jaakko and Pekka Kuusisto and also performed at a sold-out concert at the House of Nobility in Helsinki. The Sinfonietta appeared twice at the Helsinki Festival, the first featuring Sciarrino’s Lohengrin and Schönberg’s Erwartung with Raili Viljakainen as soloist and Peter Burwig as conductor, and the second being a performance of Schönberg’s Gurre-Lieder, in which the Sinfonietta participated with the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Estonian National Male Choir, the Chorus of the Finnish National Opera and top-rank soloists, conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

A new feature was introduced in November, the ‘long weekend’ of chamber music, with seven recitals. From the autumn, John Storgårds was appointed to share conducting duties with Jean-Jacques Kantorow.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“Wild celestial dances
performed as a joint venture in Tapiola”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 16 February)

The Sinfonietta and the Tampere Philharmonic joined forces to perform Olivier Messiaen’s gigantic Turangalila Symphony. Nearly 120 musicians filled the stage in Tapiola Hall and treated the audience to a bath of sound, conducted by John Storgårds with Roger Muraro as the piano soloist. There were other collaboration projects during the year, such as performances at the Ystävyyden talo [Friendship house] children’s culture week and the Paulo Cello Competition in November, where in the semi-finals the orchestra accompanied the concertos chosen by contestants and the obligatory number, the cello version of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Viola Concerto.

“Tero Latvala provided with a quality instrument
and a ball and chain”
(Wieteri 4/002)

The Tapiola Group acquired a violin built by Nicolo Gagliano in Naples in 1751 and gave it to Leader Tero Latvala to play on. During the year, the orchestra was given an additional position of Alternating 1st Leader, to which Meri Englund was appointed. In the autumn, the Sinfonietta made two successful tours: the strings toured five cities in Finland with Jaakko and Pekka Kuusisto, performing violin concertos by J.S. Bach, while 14 other orchestra members participated in performances of the multimedia work Kalmukki by accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen in London and four other cities in the UK, with the composer himself as soloist.

Säveltäjä Kimmo Pohjonen KalmukkisinFonian harmonikkasolistina.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“New seating order”
(Samuli Tiikkaja, Helsingin Sanomat 5 October)

A variety of changes and reforms was instigated during the year. The violin sections were seated on opposite sides of the stage. Olli Mustonen joined Jean-Jacques Kantorow as conductor, and Harri Mäki and Jaakko Luoma were appointed musician members of the management group. A new concert venue was completed in the autumn, Sello Hall, and the Sinfonietta gave both orchestra concerts and chamber music recitals there.


“A satisfied Tapiola Sinfonietta returns
Orchestra General Manager Satu Angervo believes that the European tour
jump-started an expected process of internationalisation”
(Kari-Otso Nevaluoma, Länsiväylä 16 March)

A successful tour of 11 concerts in Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain was undertaken with singer Ute Lemper and conductor John Storgårds. The programme featured works by Sibelius, Lindberg, Mozart and Beethoven and solo songs by Weill, Brel, Piazzolla, Eisler and Lemper. Another tour took the orchestra to the Baltic states, where Olli Mustonen conducted four concerts with the orchestra’s leaders and Pekka Kuusisto as soloists.

The year included the world premieres of Iiro Rantala’s Piano Concerto at the April Jazz festival and of Markus Fagerudd’s Operaatio PLUTO, which excited audiences to cheers at children’s concerts in October.

Average concert attendance reached a new peak, and the number of season tickets increased in both spring and autumn.

Operaatio PLUTOn esitys Tapiolasalissa.

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“After this, nothing is enough
Tapiola Sinfonietta and Pekka Kuusisto
served up a helping of Mozart”
(Kuhmolainen 30 January)

A domestic tour with Schubert, Sibelius and two Mozart violin concertos on the programme included concerts in eight locations. The soloist was Pekka Kuusisto, and the leader was Meri Englund.

The Finnish Performing Music Promotion Centre (ESEK) awarded the Sinfonietta a special grant of EUR 100,000 for the Symphonie Nouveau project (later known as Sinfonisia Fantasioita [Symphonic fantasies]). A concert series and chamber music series were established at Sello Hall, and a ‘Classics club’ was developed together with the Espoo Community College to add depth to the Sello Hall concerts.

Leader Tero Latvala left the orchestra to join the Lappeenranta City Orchestra.

“Very highly recommended”
(Classics 8 October)

A disc of Mozart arias with Soile Isokoski and Peter Schreier was widely acclaimed internationally. Two other CDs were released during the year: Pacius’s incidental music to Kypron prinsessa [Princess of Cyprus] and two chamber symphonies by Shostakovich and Barshai. Guest soloists and conductors included Soile Isokoski, Peter Schreier, HK Gruber, Paavo Berglund, Steven Isserlis, Ana Chumachenko, Ton Koopman, Leonidas Kavakos and Martin Fröst.

Konserttimestari Tero Latvalalan (vas.) ja sellisti Janne Aallon käsissä pysyi soittimen lisäksi myös jääkiekkomaila.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“No tape clicks here
Tapiola Sinfonietta wind players accompanied
the senior dance at Leppävaara Upper Secondary School.”
(Inna Perheentupa, Länsiväylä 20 February)

Live music at a school senior dance proved an instant hit. Dance was also the focus in the year’s largest collaboration project with the Finnish National Ballet. The triple bill Kivi, yö ja miljoona suudelmaa [Stone, night and a million kisses] (Dawson, Kylián and Saarinen) was performed ten times under Jan Söderblom at the Finnish National Opera. The children’s concert this year was entitled Noita joka halusi oppia laulamaan [The witch who wanted to learn to sing], where Tarja Nyberg played the speaking and singing witch, accompanied by wind players. Also, a concert entitled VarjoNova [ShadowNova] was held in connection with the Musica nova festival of contemporary music, featuring works by young Espoo composers.

“Fast and fresh
Olli Mustonen and the Tapiola Sinfonietta broke speed records”
(Samuli Tiikkaja, Helsingin Sanomat 18 December)

Olli Mustonen and Jean-Jacques Kantorow continued as regular conductors. Guest conductors included Andris Nelsons, Paavo Berglund, Kees Bakels and Okko Kamu. The orchestra appeared at various music festivals, with two concerts in Naantali: piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven with Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Krzysztof Penderecki’s Serenade for Strings and Flute Concerto conducted by the composer, with Mikael Helasvuo as soloist.

Orkesterin matalia jousia harjoituksissa

Kuva: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“Malmstén’s ABC is a nostalgia trip”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 10 September)

Collaborating with the Finnish National Opera, the Tapiola Sinfonietta presented a concert of children’s songs by famous Finnish singer-songwriter Georg Malmstén in Almi Hall at the Finnish National Opera and in Espoo. This grand production was conducted by Jyri Nissilä, and the vocal soloists were Eija Ahvo, Matti Salminen and Thelma Romu. The orchestra now abandoned the two-conductor model and engaged artists in association: Stefan Asbury, Pekka Kuusisto and Olli Mustonen. Satu Angervo resigned as General Manager, and Hanna Kosonen took up the position in August.

“Pekka Kuusisto plays impeccable Sibelius
Everything is just right on the new disc by Pekka Kuusisto and the Tapiola Sinfonietta”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 12 June)

The orchestra released no fewer than five discs during the year, of which the one containing Humoresques and Serenades by Sibelius with Pekka Kuusisto was particularly highly acclaimed.

The orchestra gave special attention to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, programming the Requiem, overtures and symphonies, and also all of Mozart’s wind concertos, performed without conductor and with orchestra members as soloists. There were also several world premieres during this year, including Kimmo Hakola’s oratorio Song of Songs in Tapiola Hall and Uljas Pulkkis’s Concerto for Horn and Orchestra on tour in France. In addition to France, the orchestra toured in Germany with Olli Mustonen, performing in Cologne, Kassel and Bietigheim-Bissingen.

Matti Salminen

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta



“Hey ho and nonny no
Tapiola Sinfonietta takes an orchestra musician’s job to new levels”
(Eija-Riitta Airo-Karttunen, Kainuun Sanomat 9 February)

The Sinfonisia Fantasioita [Symphonic Fantasies] production, organised on a special grant from the Finnish Performing Music Promotion Centre (ESEK), involved concerts in Espoo and on tour in four cities in Finland. Pekka Kuusisto, Anna-Mari Kähärä, Kirmo Lintinen and other performers from various genres together with the versatile musicians of the Tapiola Sinfonietta attracted attention with this exceptional cross-discipline production. A cultural education plan was drawn up to facilitate outreach to young audiences, and a section entitled Nuorten Kamari [Young chamber] was opened on the website. Positive publicity was also gained through an appearance in the TV programme Iirottelua on Finnish TV1. The orchestra’s Saint-Saëns CD was named Disc of the Month in BBC Music Magazine and listed among the top 10 recordings in Gramophone magazine in March.

“Celebrating fiddlers past and present
Tapiola Sinfonietta beams with pride”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 9 September)

The Sinfonietta opened its 20th anniversary season with Pekka Kuusisto as leader, the programme including the Cello Concerto of P.H. Nordgren, which had been featured in the orchestra’s first regular concert. Marko Ylönen was the soloist then as now. The anniversary season contained performances of various large-scale works such as Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. The 50th anniversary of the death of Sibelius was commemorated with performances of his Sixth Symphony and Tapiola, and at the end of the year the orchestra participated in performances of Bach’s St John Passion and Christmas Oratorio. The General Manager was Helena Värri. The orchestra acquired a new Leader, as Meri Englund was joined by Janne Nisonen.

Jukka Rantamäki (vas.) ja Timo Holopainen vapputunnelmissa.

Photo: Tapiola Sinfonietta


“- Every since it was established, the Sinfonietta has uncompromisingly and methodically improved itself
and its professional competence, evolving into a nationally and internationally known and acclaimed orchestra.”
(City of Espoo Culture Committee in the citation for the 2008 Culture Award)

The year 2008 marked a double anniversary, with Tapiola Sinfonietta celebrating its 20th anniversary and the City of Espoo its 550th. The orchestra was given the Culture Award of the City of Espoo and in the citation was particularly commended for its methodical professional improvement. At the anniversary concert, the orchestra was conducted by Jorma Panula, who ushered the orchestra into being, and Jean-Jacques Kantorow, who played a major role in creating its sound.
The Tapiola Sinfonietta appeared at many public events connected with the city’s anniversary, such as the City Manager’s Independence Day reception for 2,700 pupils in 4th grade and at Finland’s largest upper secondary school junior prom with 1,500 participants from Espoo. Chamber ensembles formed by orchestra members performed at several nursing homes, and chamber music was also brought to EMMA, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, with musicians performing music they selected to accompany 20 artworks. Another highlight of the anniversary year was the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Tapiola Chamber Choir under Olli Mustonen. Attendance was high, the season ticket sales record was exceeded by 25%, and average attendance grew.

“- The performance of Owen Wingrave was superb.
The Tapiola Sinfonietta under Stefan Asbury lived up to its reputation – this quality will stand up in any international comparison.”

(Matti Lehtonen Turun Sanomat 6 Apr)

“- The performance by the lightened yet at times Mahlerian Tapiola Sinfonietta
and Pekka Kuusisto is a chapter of its own in the success story of performances of Lindberg’s Violin Concerto.”
(Annamari Salmela HS 30 Nov)

Vocal music played a major role in the season’s programme. The opera Anna Liisa by Veli-Matti Puumala was premiered with the Kapsäkki music theatre company at the Alexander Theatre at the Helsinki Festival. Benjamin Britten’s opera Owen Wingrave was given its Finnish premiere in a concert version at Tapiola Hall, and at the ChoralEspoo festival there was a performance of Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of our Time with the Helsinki Philharmonic Choir.
In this anniversary year, the City of Espoo inaugurated the KULPS! Culture and Sports Path project for children and adolescents. The Tapiola Sinfonietta contributed a performance of music by Jukka Linkola in a concert entitled The Snoq Queen at the ‘Friendship House’ children’s festival. Another children’s concert featured beloved children’s songs by Finnish singer-songwriter Georg Malmstén, and this was also recorded.


“- The Tapiola Sinfonietta follows Mustonen’s antics with extreme precision,
with a homogeneous sound, honed by years of working together.”
Kare Eskola, YLE Radio 1, 22 Oct)

“- The woodwinds continued their amazing performance,
and the ‘lullaby’ in the Adagio espressivo was melodic manna.”
(Annamari Salmela Helsingin Sanomat 25 Jan)

The orchestra toured Germany under pianist and conductor Olli Mustonen and also recorded Beethoven’s Piano Concertos nos. 4 and 5 with him. Other recordings in this season included Carl Maria von Weber’s Symphonies nos. 1 and 2 and works for bassoon and orchestra with the Tapiola Sinfonietta’s Principal Bassoon, Jaakko Luoma, as soloist. A disc entitled Bizarre Bazaar contained tunes from various musical cultures of the world, with clarinettist Kari Kriikku as soloist. Many of the orchestra’s members, such as flautists Hanna Juutilainen and Heljä Räty, clarinettists Harri Mäki and Asko Heiskanen, and violist Janne Nisonen and cellist Riitta Pesola, appeared as soloists at season concerts.
The Espoo Cultural Centre celebrated its 20th anniversary; Tapiola Hall in the Cultural Centre has been the orchestra’s home ever since the inaugural concert on 21 May 1989.

 “- Kalevi Aho’s Second Chamber Symphony is a virtuoso string piece
and as such well suited to the strings of the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Stefan Asbury.”
(Samuli Tiikkaja Helsingin Sanomat 5 Apr)

“Kuusisto’s arrangements were a huge miracle for a small string section.
The charisma of the musicians was quite disarming.”

(Annamari Salmela Helsingin Sanomat 1 Feb)

Three world premieres were given during the season: Riikka Talvitie’s guitar concerto Bow-wow with Petri Kumela as soloist; Marzi Nyman’s Concerto for Electric Guitar with the composer as soloist, and ???

The Tapiola Sinfonietta continued its KULPS! activities, performing for pupils in Espoo schools. The orchestra introduced 2nd graders to classical music at concerts and preceding workshops. Workshops and school concerts were also given for 1,400 4th graders, who were treated to songs written and performed by Jonna Tervomaa, with orchestral accompaniment arranged by violinist and conductor Pekka Kuusisto. On Espoo Day, the Tapiola Sinfonietta performed for customers of the Sello shopping centre.


“- Beethoven’s Egmont Overture is exciting again.
The strings were incisive, the wind choirs balmy and redeeming, and the fanfares were triumphant. A sonorously detaoöed and vibrant performance.”

(Hannu-Ilari Lampila Helsingin Sanomat 14 Nov)

“- The Tapiola Sinfonietta has matured into
the most interesting orchestra in the Helsinki metropolitan area.”

(Amfion 25 Aug)

Swiss conductor Mario Venzago was installed as Artist in Association, and Lotta Wennäkoski was appointed the Tapiola Sinfonietta’s first composer-in-residence. The orchestra performed all of Sibelius’s symphonies under Leif Segerstam at the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki as part of the Helsinki Festival. More Sibelius was performed at a guest concert at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, where the conductor was Oleg Snetkov and the soloist was Principal Bassoon Jaakko Luoma. At the beginning of the year, five members of the Berlin Philharmonic visited the orchestra, guesting as principals and soloists at season concerts.
In December, the Tapiola Sinfonietta executed a rare joint project with La Tía Norica, a Spanish puppet theatre company that upholds the ancient tradition of shadow puppetry. This involved two performances of the puppet opera El retablo de maese Pedro by Manuel de Falla at Tapiola Hall.

“- The music of the puppet opera is a delicious mix
of Falla’s own style with passionate Spanish dance rhythms…” (Hannu-Ilari Lampila Helsingin Sanomat 5 Dec)

“- In Brahms’s sombre serenade, the low strings were like soft grass
over which the woodwind sparkled like bright, many-coloured flowers.”

(Hannu-Ilari Lampila Helsingin Sanomat 9 May)
The new Chamber Music in Manors series was launched, offering concert experiences in intimate, moody settings. Audiences were also invited to view the work of the orchestra in a new way as dress rehearsals for season concerts were opened to the public. In the ‘Short cut to opera’ concert with commentary, listeners were offered a shortcut into the world of opera through Mozart arias. Principal Double Bass Panu Pärssinen appeared as soloist with Pekka Kuusisto as conductor in a KULPS! concert featuring ‘Nordic tones’. At the new Kutitus cultural festival for children and adolescents, the orchestra performed Francis Poulenc’s musical fairy tale L’Histoire de Babar, with guest conductor Kurt Kopecky and narrator Martti Suosalo.



“No petty tinkering at the Tapiola Sinfonietta concert. Youth and joie de vivre were evident in the performers and composers bursting with energy.”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 24 October)

Young conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali was appointed an Artist in Association, and at his first concert he propelled the orchestra into soaring joy in Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Music by featured composer Sampo Haapamäki was also performed.

Jean-Jacques Kantorow, the long-standing artistic director and conductor of the orchestra, was appointed Honorary Conductor. It was during his tenure (1993–2006) that the Sinfonietta developed its characteristic sound, and one third of the orchestra’s recordings were conducted by him.

More season tickets were sold than ever before. The eagerly awaited Music Centre in Helsinki was inaugurated in August, and the orchestra gave two concerts there: the first conducted by Jean-Jacques Kantorow with soloists Nancy Zhou (violin), Harri Mäki (clarinet) and Asko Heiskanen (basset horn), and the second with soloists Mark Padmore (tenor) and Pekka Kuusisto (violin), who also conducted.


“Stefan Asbury and the Tapiola Sinfonietta sucked the listener into a wildly raging storm where everything was a maelstrom.”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 5 February)

The orchestra gave the first performance in Finland of Wolfgang Rihm’s orchestral work Jagden und Formen, lasting more than an hour, at the opening concert of the Musica nova Helsinki festival, and the world premiere of American composer Nico Muhly’s concerto Impossible Things for violin and tenor, commissioned by the orchestra, with Pekka Kuusisto and Mark Padmore as soloists.

Performing music for children and adolescents has always been an important aspect of the orchestra’s work. In this year, members of the Tapiola Youth Symphony Orchestra were given the opportunity to rehearse under the guidance of Tapiola Sinfonietta members and to perform with the orchestra at the Mestarit ja kisällit [Masters and apprentices] concert conducted by Dima Slobodeniouk. Leader Jukka Rantamäki was selected to continue the work of Géza Szilvay with the Helsinki Junior Strings.


“…the Scandinavian musicians unleashed a truly explosive fireworks of brilliant sound.”
(Rudolf Wesner, Bietigheimer Zeitung 17 February)

The year 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the Tapiola Sinfonietta. Half of its current musicians were founding members, and this continuity is well apparent in the orchestra’s sound and in its much-acclaimed ensemble work. The concerts of the anniversary year attracted interest, and a new record was set in the sale of season tickets, with more than 600 sold.

Veli-Matti Puumala was selected as the new featured composer. The programme of the anniversary year included a tour of Germany, Austria and Italy under Mario Venzago and a domestic tour for strings to Tornio, Rovaniemi, Ylivieska and Kaustinen with violinist-conductor Pekka Kuusisto. The other soloists on this domestic tour were Eeva Koskinen-de Waal (violin) and Riitta Pesola (cello). Principal clarinet Harri Mäki was appointed artistic director of the Crusell Week in Uusikaupunki, and at the orchestra’s guest concert at that festival, soprano Soile Isokoski performed five Schubert Lieder with accompaniments arranged for orchestra by composer Jouni Kaipainen.


“The absence of a conductor prompted alert interaction and energised the music to a dazzling brilliance.”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 16 September)

The orchestra performed without a conductor at several concerts, and five members of the Berlin Philharmonic joined the orchestra in a concert given at the Music Centre in Helsinki in September. This concert included Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht, with Jorma Uotinen premiering his choreography to the piece with two other dancers.

At the Rarerare ja kaverit [Rarerare and friends] concert forming part of the Kutitus children’s festival at the Music Centre, 2nd graders were invited to join the orchestra as soloists, playing instruments that they had built themselves in workshops. The work performed was written by Minna Leinonen, and the orchestra was conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali. The concert was organised jointly with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Helsinki Festival. The first of a series of outside-the-box concerts entitled Marzi-musaa with guitarist-singer-composer Marzi Nyman was held in March, with principal horn Tero Toivonen as soloist.

The orchestra premiered an arrangement for organ and orchestra of Organ Symphony no. 9 by Charles Marie Widor at the Organ Night and Aria festival in Espoo, with Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducting and Kalevi Kiviniemi as soloist.

The recording programme for the year included three chamber symphonies by Kalevi Aho.


“Tapiola Sinfonietta impresses the audience with a high level of close collaboration and perfect unity of sound.”
(Feiyan Jia, Music Weekly 11 December)

The 25th-anniversary season of the Tapiola Sinfonietta that began in the previous year culminated in a week of celebrations from 5 to 21 April 2013, including all types of concert: orchestra concerts, public dress rehearsals, matinees, chamber music recitals and family concerts.

All residents of Espoo aged 25 or born in 1925 were offered free tickets to these concerts. At the concert in Tapiola Hall on 5 April, the soloist and conductor was soprano Barbara Hannigan, and the concert was followed by an invited reception.

The 25th anniversary also included an exhibition at the Espoo Cultural Centre of portraits painted by Bridget Allaire-Mäki, who plays bassoon with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, of the orchestra members and administrators.

Guitarist-composer Marzi Nyman became the orchestra’s new Artist in Association, and the orchestra went on two tours abroad, the first of them to Germany under conductor Mario Venzago with pianist Lauma Skribe as soloist. The other tour was to China in December, with soprano Virpi Räisänen and Hong-Kong-born cellist Trey Lee as soloists and 1st Leader Janne Nisonen conducting. The televised concert in Hong Kong was watched by an estimated 4 million viewers.

At home, the Tapiola Sinfonietta visited the Crusell Week and became one of the principal organisers of the Musica nova Helsinki festival with the Finnish National Opera. The festival concert in February was conducted by composer Magnus Lindberg and included his works Jubilees and Souvenir, the latter performed for the first time in Finland, and the double bass concerto Taon by featured composer Veli-Matti Puumala, with the orchestra’s principal double bass Panu Pärssinen as soloist. Puumala’s chamber music work Tears was premiered at a concert conducted by Hannu Lintu in Tapiola Hall in March, and Kirmo Lintinen’s Clarinet Concerto was premiered with the orchestra’s principal clarinet Harri Mäki as soloist and Pekka Kuusisto as conductor.


“The musicians’ technical proficiency left nothing to be desired, and they were also profoundly immersed in the music.”
(Nürnberger Nachrichten 26 January)

The orchestra participated in two multi-discipline productions. The first was a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Alexander Theatre at the Helsinki Festival, together with the New Generation Opera. The production made use of video screens and real-time phone camera video images on stage. The conductor was Ville Matvejeff, and the director was Eric Söderblom. The other was a production of the dance work Seitsemän [Seven] to Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony, choreographed by Ville Valkonen and performed by the Small Finnish Ballet Company and the orchestra conducted by Dima Slobodeniouk at a season ticket concert in Tapiola Hall.

Comedy and music merged in Big Nightmare Music, a production by the duo Igudesman & Joo, performed by violinist Alexey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo with guitarist Marzi Nyman and the Tapiola Sinfonietta at Sello Hall. In this performance, the violinists of the Sinfonietta were called upon to play music and dance at the same time.

The Tapiola Sinfonietta’s disc of works by Magnus Lindberg was nominated for Disc of the Year in France. The CD contains Lindberg’s Violin Concerto no. 1 with Pekka Kuusisto as soloist and conductor and the orchestral works Souvenir and Jubilees conducted by the composer.


“The music flowed colourfully and with virtuoso flair. The winds were superb, and the small string section was flexible and uniform.”
(Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat 24 September)

Russian-born pianist Alexander Melnikov was appointed Artist in Association alongside Marzi Nyman, who had been appointed a year earlier and now received the Espoo Culture Prize. Principal horn Tero Toivonen completed an artistically oriented doctorate at the Sibelius Academy, with a written thesis on the orchestra musician’s role in audience outreach work, reflecting the Tapiola Sinfonietta’s long-standing commitment to such efforts. Helena Värri came on board as General Manager at the beginning of March.

Osmo Vänskä, who had been artistic director from 1990 to 1992, returned after a pause of more than ten years, conducting Beethoven at a sold-out concert with pianist Evgeny Sudbin as soloist. Beethoven was also on the programme at the orchestra’s concerts in Järvenpää and Sipoo, conducted by Leader Janne Nisonen and with Réka Szilvay as the violin soloist. Janne Nisonen was accepted for the Master’s programme in conducting at the Sibelius Academy and made his conducting début with the Helsinki Philharmonic in August.

Young talented Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, who won the International Malko Conducting Competition in 2012, conducted the orchestra in September. The upcoming Sibelius 150 anniversary year was foreshadowed at a concert featuring works by Sibelius and Nordgren as well as traditional runo singing by Ilona Korhonen and fiddler music from Kaustinen. The conductor and violin soloist was Pekka Kuusisto, who also played together with fiddlers from the Järvelä family.


“This lightning-fast performance will not sit well with traditionalists who favor a reverent approach to Bruckner, such as Klemperer’s or Barbirolli’s, or practically everybody else’s, but it is guaranteed to shake up the conventional wisdom on how to play this piece. Highly recommended to open-minded Brucknerians.”
(Blair Sanderson AllMusic Review 11 November)

“The solo instruments in Haapamäki’s Conception are the quarter-tone accordion and quarter-tone guitar. However, the entire orchestra is also called upon to play quarter-tones. It was a heroic effort by the musicians. What would be an equivalent challenge? Perhaps skiing to the South Pole wearing only swimming trunks.”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 27 April)

Mario Venzago’s lively, tradition-bashing Bruckner disc divided opinions among critics sharply, and the world premieres in this year were also something completely different. Sampo Haapamäki’s double concerto Conception featured quarter-tone music, with specialist solo instruments played by Veli Kujala (quarter-tone accordion) and Juuso Nieminen (quarter-tone guitar) under Hannu Lintu. In Lotta Wennäkoski’s Jong, music combined with contemporary circus. Performed at the Cirko festival under Tomas Djupsjöbacka, the work featured juggler Sakari Männistö as soloist.

The orchestra’s by now traditional efforts to attract new generations of listeners continued in collaboration with the Kutitus children’s festival. The orchestra gave a narrated children’s concert entitled Kissakeisari ja appelsiinikuu [The Cat Emperor and the Orange Moon], with music by Timo Klemettinen to lyrics by Tuula Korolainen. The soloists were Espoo Music Institute teachers Ulla Piispanen (voice) and Tarja Luoma (voice) and the orchestra’s singing double bass player Matti Tegelman. The concert was conducted by József Hárs.


“Hats off, twice: to Vänskä for following his own path to unique results, and to the Tapiola Sinfonietta for surpassing itself.”
(Annamari Salmela, Helsingin Sanomat 20 December)

“The members of the Tapiola Sinfonietta are personalities who lent a personal touch to the rich fabric of the symphony. I have never heard the horizon-bending wind passages in the fugal storm of the finale so bold and so modern.”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 30 May)

The orchestra toured abroad again in January, this time visiting the Seoul International Music Festival in South Korea. The programme included works by Sibelius, Beethoven and Schubert, and the soloists were Ju-Young Baek (violin), Na-Young Baek (cello) and Ralf Gothóni (piano), who also conducted.

The season ticket concerts in Tapiola Hall received excellent reviews; one of them was conducted by Osmo Vänskä, Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, with Evgeny Sudbin as soloist, and another by Antotello Manacorda with soprano Anu Komsi as soloist.

The Sibelius 150 anniversary year was conspicuous in the orchestra’s repertoire. In January, the orchestra gave a concert performance of Sibelius’s opera The Maiden in the Tower and his incidental music to the ballet pantomime Scaramouche. Both works had been newly rearranged by conductor Tuomas Hannikainen, and the latter provided by a cinematic visualisation whose production team included video artist Marikki Hakola.


“…a magical dialogue of images and music on an almost pitch-black stage.”
(Auli Särkiö, Rondo Classic 12 November)

“This recording (…) feels tight and exciting (…). Helena Juntunen is outstanding in the title role both vocally and emotionally and Jorma Hynninen makes much of her compromised father (…) Anna Liisa is something special and deserves wide circulation outside its native land.
(Mike Ashman, Gramophone September 2015, ‘Editor’s Choice’)

“Conducted by Jan Söderblom, the Tapiola Sinfonietta has a broad and multi-layered sound, sizzling with energy even in the quietest moments.”
(Samuli Tiikkaja, Helsingin Sanomat 19 August)

The opera Anna Liisa, written by Veli-Matti Puumala in the late 1990s, was finally given the recording it deserved as the Tapiola Sinfonietta participated in a studio recording for the Ondine label. The critics generally regarded this as a praiseworthy cultural act, and Limelight magazine in Australia nominated it for Disc of the Year.

The chamber music series Taiteilijat lähikuvassa [Artists in closeup] was retitled Hetkiä [Moments], and the concerts were rescheduled from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon. At the first recital, paintings by the orchestra’s bassoon Bridget Allaire-Mäki inspired by works on the programme were projected onto the screen.

The programme for the season focused on multi-discipline projects, bold crossover and selections for a wide variety of listeners. At the April Jazz festival, the orchestra performed The Rolling Stones Project by Tim Ries, sax player with the Rolling Stones. The concert was conducted by Marzi Nyman, with Tim Ries himself and vocalist Anna-Mari Kähärä as soloists.

In the first of two concerts in November, the orchestra performed works by Frank Zappa, one of the most highly diverse musicians of modern times. The soloists were guitarist-singer Marzi Nyman, the orchestra’s principal horn Tero Toivonen and percussionist Arttu Takalo. The Zappa! concert was a season ticket concerts and formed part of the doctorate of conductor Jukka Iisakkila, which focused on absurdism in music.

The second November concert was titled Ola, Topi & Tapsa 300 vuotta in reference to the combined centenaries of three major names in Finnish popular music – singer Olavi Virta, songwriter Toivo Kärki and singer-songwriter Tapio Rautavaara. Their unforgettable tunes were performed by singers Paula Koivuniemi, Tuure Kilpeläinen and Maria Ylipää.

The children’s concert tradition continued with the fairy tale concert Pieni Tulitikkutyttö [The Little Match Girl] organised with Unga Teatern, with music by Sofia Finnilä arranged and conducted by Jussi Lampela.


Featuring Artistic Director and international acclaimed cellist Trey Lee in collaboration with the dazzling Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto leading the Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Opening drew thunderous applause with Lee and Kuusisto returning with encores that elated the audience to a rapturous joy.”
(Musicus Society, press release 6 December)

“As Meri Englund, Leader of the Tapiola Sinfonietta and granddaughter of Einar Englund, played his Violin Concerto, the special delicate and personal relationship lent an aura to the performance.”
(Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat 5 December)

The orchestra visited Hong Kong, appearing at the Musicus Fest festival. In addition to orchestral concerts, the orchestra performed chamber music, gave children’s concerts and gave classes at local music institutions. The soloists were Trey Lee (cello), Louise Kwong (soprano), Paavali Jumppanen (piano) and Pekka Kuusisto (violin, conductor), and the conductor was Janne Nisonen. The programme included music by Grieg, Sibelius, Schnittke and Prokofiev. The farewell concerts in Tapiola Hall and at the House of Nobility in Helsinki were both sold out.

All winners of the Paulo International Cello Competition from past years – Enrico Bronzi, Xavier Phillips, Hai-Ye Ni, Kian Soltani and Andreas Brantelid – performed at two 50th-anniversary concerts of the Paulo Foundation, conducted by Dalia Stasevskaya and Eva Ollikainen.

The centenary of the birth of composer Einar Englund was marked with a performance of his Violin Concerto by his granddaughter Meri Englund, 1st Leader of the Tapiola Sinfonietta, at a concert conducted by Mario Venzago.

Juha Ahonen took up the post of General Manager on 1 June 2016. Principal clarinet Harri Mäki was appointed Professor of Wind Instruments at the Sibelius Academy, and 1st Leader Janne Nisonen was engaged as Chief Conductor of the Pori Sinfonietta for two years from autumn 2016.


“The Sinfonietta’s long-term policy bears impressive fruit. It offers the conductor a skilled ensemble of excellent soloists with which one can do whatever one likes.”
(Annamari Salmela, Helsingin Sanomat 24 October)

“The orchestra plays with electric energy, and the highly charged performances more than make up for the apparent lack of sentiment in Stravinsky’s music.”
(Blair Sanderson, All Music Review 10 June)

The novelties of the season included the first performance in Europe of the Marimba Concerto by Korean composer Jeajoon Ryu performed by June Moon Kyun Hahn, for whom the work was written. The conductor was Ralf Gothóni. Japanese Baroque specialist Masaaki Suzuki recorded music from Igor Stravinsky’s Neo-Classical period with the strings of the Tapiola Sinfonietta.

At the Kutitus children’s festival, the orchestra performed a production entitled Aave pyykkinarulla [The Ghost on the Washing Line], written by Timo Klemettinen, with soloists Ulla Piispanen (voice), Tarja Luoma (voice) and Matti Tegelman (double bass and voice) and conductor József Hárs. Uli Kontu-Korhonen was invited to head a project in which eight orchestra members trained as hospital musicians. Having completed the training, they began to visit wards at Espoo hospitals to perform. An ensemble of orchestra members performed folk music for asylum seekers at the Siikajärvi reception centre. The Ystäväluistelu [Friend skating] event was held for the first time in collaboration with the City of Espoo Sports and Culture Department. The related concert was relayed live from Tapiola Hall to the Tapiola Ice Garden for the skaters to see and hear. Conversely, a video feed from the Ice Garden was projected onto the screen in Tapiola Hall. The event was hugely popular, and it was decided to make it an annual occurrence.