Presenting our musicians: Jussi Seppänen
Musician interview 22.1.2020
Cellist Jussi Seppänen, who was strongly exposed to classical music already in his childhood home, also has a gift for words.
My official job can be found at the north end of the Töölö bay in the opera’s orchestra pit. The majority of my other musical occupations concern historical instruments. In addition to Baroque orchestras, especially my ensembles Baccano and Trio Origo increase (and consume) my mental capital.
Tell us about yourself.
My childhood home in Tampere was filled with music, although no one worked with music professionally. My father’s weekly cleaning responsibility was the living room, but the stereos there prolonged the cleaning process with Brucknerian measures (from Friday to Sunday). At that time, vacuum cleaners were not especially quiet, so the culminations of the symphonies were literally earth-shattering. The regular childhood exposure to German-speaking central symphonic and chamber music repertoire has significantly impacted my own musical capital and growth. Regarding my own children, unfortunately, I have completely failed with transferring this tradition. My next-door neighbours are probably silently quite happy with this.
How did you end up with your instrument? Who or what made you choose it?
Before school age, I started playing the piano with my grandma, just like my siblings. As my sister’s and brother’s instrument selection broadened, our trio lacked a bass line player, so the (parents’) choice was easy.
What inspires you as a musician and in life?
When colleagues play. Be it another instrumentalist’s phenomenal control over their instrument, or a tiny improvised insight of someone playing the same basso continuo as me, that nobody even notices.
It should also be mentioned here that many composers are famous for a reason. It is obviously inspiring to perform their works.
What other art form is close to your heart?
Ballet. It never ceases to amaze me how dancers can express such a variety of small and big nuances and emotions with their movements. Thanks to my job, I can follow from a short distance what kind of work it requires to achieve the illusion. When the intermission starts, the ballerina who just moments ago magically glided on staged is panting and sweating heavily without saying a word throughout our elevator ride together.
At its best, ballet combines the same things that also make opera so wonderful: when all components come together, they constitute so much more than the sum of their parts. Nacho Duato’s Bach choreography or Crystal Pite’s The Seasons' Canon to music by Max Richter are brilliant examples of this.
Which is your greatest musical dream?
My great and small dreams have been fulfilled quite well already. Towards the sunset!
Which is your favourite travel destination, and why?
The mountains of Lapland in early spring. Skiing and open sceneries and thoughts.
In what kind of a place does your soul find rest?
The summer evening scene of the calm lake that opens up from the window of our smoke sauna’s dressing room at our summer cottage is quite close to the ideal. And if that previously mentioned Kukastunturi Mountain’s late winter ski track could be placed next to that summery smoke sauna, the idyll would be perfect.
How do you feel your art is affecting society at large?
The audience’s faces glowing with joy and their whole jubilant beings remind me of that which we all surely strive to at least subconsciously; the happy life. At its best, art can offer these small momentary streaks of joy or even leave a mark for the rest of one’s life. Each one of us searches for these moments in different places, and art is a noteworthy alternative where to find them.
Why do you enjoy playing music that is over 300 years old?
A simple person like me is moved by simple things. A single surprising resolving harmony in a chorale by Bach or an inconspicuous modulation in a song by Schubert. But exactly the same means of achieving exaltation are used in the popular music of the 2020s, too. Maybe soon we will reach the same level of mastery as 300 years ago?
Choose your favourite among FiBO’s spring 2020 concerts, and motivate your choice.
In the Garden of Love (14 February) we will perform a serenata by Scarlatti, which I heard last fall in a concert by an Italian Baroque orchestra in the brand new Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin. It is nice to hear how well FiBO’s beautiful residence hall at the House of Nobility performs compared to a modernistic concert hall, and how the Finnish musicians create Italian warmth in the freezing (?) February night.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
The ice hockey team Tappara from Tampere. Or actually, it is a virtue.
If you had to run the Cooper test or bake for a party of 30 people, which would you choose?
Cooper, definitely. I would only need to work my stamina up to what it was back in the days, because isn’t it always a matter of breaking records when you step out on the running track.