About the orcestra 1989-2009
In 2009 the Sixth Floor Orchestra became 20 years old
The celebrations of the year culminated conductor Tuomas Hannikainen’s term as the artistic director of the orchestra. In Finland’s national history 2009 marked 200 years since Finland had become a part of the Russian empire. This significant year was also solemnized with music: the Sixth Floor Orchestra performed music composed in Sweden, Finland and Russia in the early years of the 19th century. The dramatized concert of the life of Kustaa Mauri Armfelt performed during the Helsinki Festival (Helsingin Juhlaviikot) was an example of making national and cultural history comprehensively alive for the modern audience.
Beethoven’s symphonies had been the theme of Hannikainen’s earlier years as the artistic director 2005-2008. The familiar basic works of classical music were further illuminated through the compositions of Beethoven’s predecessors and contemporaries. In the concert series “Beethoven and his roots” all the symphonies were performed with the instruments and performance practices of the composer’s own time for the first time in Finland. The successful series was also repeated in the Beethoven-concerts of the celebration year 2009. A live recording of Beethoven’s fourth and eighth symphonies was released during the celebration year.
A special year for Purcell as well
Henry Purcell was born in London 1659 and when he died he was only 36 years old. However, with his composition output he has accomplished a status as the most remarkable English composer of all time and one of the most important composers of the baroque era in the world. The Sixth Floor Orchestra celebrated the 350th memorial year since his birth in Vantaa in September 2009 and in Tampere in October 2009.
Händel and Haydn culminated the year’s celebrations
It had been 250 years since the death of Händel and 200 years since the death of Haydn. A program conceived by Tuomas Hannikainen was performed in the Christmas concert. The program consisted of Haydn’s music and the most influential parts of Händel’s first and last oratorios. The concert was framed by a proclamation in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter three: “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…”
At the end of the celebration year the Sixth Floor Orchestra moved on to a new era. The orchestra continued to the new decade with a new name, the Finnish Baroque Orchestra.
Finland’s first baroque orchestra was born in 1989
A group of music students and young musicians familiarized with baroque music began practicing together with the guidance of Anssi Mattila, a harpsichord teacher at Sibelius Academy. The groundwork for the activity was laid in a major project in spring of 1985, when Helsinki’s Chamber Strings had performed J. S. Bach’s complete essential orchestral works with modern instruments. The rehearsals of Mattila’s group held place in the sixth floor of Sibelius Academy’s building in Fredrikinkatu (Fredrik’s street). This is how the youthful group came up with the name Sixth Floor Orchestra.
The group debuted as the Sixth Floor Chamber Orchestra at YLE’s Music before romanticism –festival in the German church of Helsinki 25th of November. The program consisted of French and Italian works: Carlo Farina’s Capriccio Stravagante and Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Elements and Caprice.
Especially the pioneers in Holland and Belgium active at the end of the 1960’s have shaken our perceptions of 17th and 18th centuries’ music and how to perform it.Founding The Sixth Floor Orchestra linked Finland with this baroque music movement born in Central Europe. Baroque masterpieces played true to the style of the era with periodic instruments could be heard for the first time in Finland in the orchestra’s concerts in the 1990’s. At that time the orchestra performed among other things J. S. Bach’s Brandeburg Concertos, cantatas and the Christmas Oratorio, G. F. Händel’s Messiah Oratorio, Arcangelo Corelli’s concerto grossos, Antonio Vivaldi’s concertos and Henry Purcell’s odes.
The orchestra took part in the performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion for the first time in 1999 and since 2001 it has acted as the orchestra in the traditional St Matthew Passion performance of the mixed choir Suomen Laulu. The composer’s Mass in B minor became a part of the orchestra’s repertoire in spring 2000. In addition to the essential works, interesting rarities have always been a part of the concerts as well. During Mattila’s term of leadership the orchestra also took part in baroque opera performances, of which many were collaborations with the multi-artistic association Taite ry. These performances were of Les Arts Florissants by M.-A. Charpentier,Orfeo ed Eurydice by Ch. W. Gluck, Dido and Aeneas by Purcell and Ulysse by Rebel.
At the end of his term Anssi Mattila conducted the orchestra’s first commercial CD-recording, which consisted of Vivaldi’s concertos and was released in 2001. In the autumn of the same year the orchestra travelled abroad for the first time. The trip was directed at the festival of old music in St Petersburg.
Cellist Jukka Rautasalo followed Mattila as the artistic director in 2001. He expanded the orchestra’s repertoire from baroque to 18th and 19th centuries’ classicism. The repertoire focused on W. A. Mozart and less known Finnish music of the era. Rautasalo did groundbreaking work conducting amongst other things works by B. H. Crusell, Erik Ferling and Erik Tulindberg. The orchestra captured this repertoire also on record: Classical Age in Finland was released in 2001. In 2003 the orchestra visited the festival of old music in Regensburg in Germany. In summer 2004 it was time to record Mozart’s masterwork Gran Partita. The record came out in autumn 2005.
Conductor Tuomas Hannikainen (formerly Ollila) began his post as the orchestra’s third artistic director in the beginning of 2005.
The Finnish Baroque Orchestra functions versatilely in Finnish music field. It has performed regularly at Helsinki Festival, Turku Music Festival and YLE’s Music before romanticism –festival. It has also visited for example Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, Crusell Music Festival in Uusikaupunki, Vantaa Baroque and the Musiikkia linnassa –event in Hämeenlinna. Tapiola Chamber Choir, the Academic Choral Society (AL), Helsinki Chamber Choir (formerly known as the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir) and Suomen Laulu choir have acted as partners in grand vocal works. Many Finnish frontline experts in old music have performed as orchestra’s soloists, including Tuija Hakkila, fortepiano, and Mikael Helasvuo, flute, and vocalists Anu Komsi, Topi Lehtipuu and Petteri Salomaa.
International cooperation has been lively as well. Many foreign experts on rare instruments have participated in concerts and many renowned international artists have performed as leaders and soloists for the orchestra. Amongst them are conductorsTõnu Kaljuste, Andrew Lawrence-King, Andrew Manze, and instrumental soloists Jaap ter Linden, Gabriele Gassone and Omar Zaboli, and vocalistsMikael Bellini, David Cordier and Ian Honeyman. At the end of the first decade of the 21st century cooperation with Georg Kallweit, concertmaster for Akademie für Alte Musik –orchestra in Berlin, was begun. He was the main guest star of the Finnish Baroque Orchestra 2008-2011.
The Sixth Floor Orchestra was honored with the musical achievement of the year –distinction granted by YLE in 2000 for their performance of the Ulysse-opera. The CD-recording Classical Age in Finland was selected as the record of the year by YLE in 2001. The record was also rewarded with the Janne-award by audio-visual producers of Finland (Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland ry, formerly known as Ääni- ja kuvatallennetuottajat, ÄKT).