Presenting our musicians: Petteri Pitko

Musician interview 17.12.2019

FiBOs Artistic Director and harpsichordist Petteri Pitko is quite a language genius besides his musical talent! 

Kuva: Andreas Knapp

Petteri Pitko

Harpsichord and organ

Short introduction
At the moment, I work as FiBOs Artistic Director, which is a highly versatile task. In addition to planning individual concert programs it includes designing the orchestra’s upcoming seasons and strategy, and developing the orchestra in cooperation with the other members of the executive team; Laura Kajander and Pauliina Fred. This is interesting work, in which we have to understand the state of society and the cultural field, the development of cultural politics and funding for culture, and also be able to sniff new winds and influences both in Finland and abroad. 

Tell us about yourself. 
I come from Kerimäki, which is nowadays part of the city of Savonlinna. The landscapes of Saimaa are still very dear to me, although I have been living elsewhere for over 20 years; abroad, in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia and now in Helsinki. Classical music was not present in my childhood home, and maybe that is the reason why it swept me away later. To me, it was a great and unknown, fascinating world. 

How did you end up with your instrument? Who or what made you choose it?
First I played the piano and the organ, but my interest in the older clavier repertory and my open-minded piano teacher inspired me to try the harpsichord. It was love at first sight! When I later learned to know the magical world of continuo and started playing in orchestras, I realised how social it is to make music. 

What inspires you as a musician and in life?
People who are able to see something new in the old and familiar, people who shake customary ways of thinking. This is needed both in music and in life overall. 

What other art form is close to your heart? 
I am inspired by theater, which takes place in time, just like music. The story begins, develops and ends, and in the performance the audience is taken on a journey that is never repeated exactly the same. This uniqueness fascinates me in live music, too. 

Which is your greatest musical dream?
I wish that classical music maintains its vivid connection to people also in the future, and that it does not become a museum artifact without any meaning to people’s lives. This is, of course, much on the responsibility of us current makers of music. 

Which is your favourite travel destination, and why? 
Naples is one of the most marvellous cities that I have ever visited. Ruggedly beautiful and completely chaotic. The systematic Nordic person in me is fascinated by the logic of Southern Italy: what at first sight seems like a perfect chaos, soon reveals a world organised in its very own way. 

In what kind of a place does your soul find rest?
I enjoy the silence as a counterweight to both music and all intellectual work. Silence can be found in the Finnish forest, by the sea, or for instance in a dim Neapolitan church when you have stepped in from the noisy street and closed the door behind you. 

How do you feel your art is affecting society at large? 
As an orchestra, our task is to offer the listeners experiences, the familiar and the unknown, entertainment, an escape from the everyday life, and also challenges and food for thought. Even affecting only one listener has an effect on society as a whole. The world of classical music has been considered elitistic and alienated from the rest of the world, but in recent years the themes of e.g. gender and multiculturalism have emerged in interesting ways in internal discussions and in media. But it is always a two-way effect: society influences art and its contents, and the other way around. The way in which we, people in this industry, encounter and solve these topical questions has an outward effect on the whole picture of how our society is constructed. 

Why do you enjoy playing music that is over 300 years old?
For me, one of the most important reasons is keeping our cultural heritage alive and topical and to maintain its attractiveness to people. Music is a magical art form because it transcends time and language. Sound messages from far away in the shadows of our history appeal to us, although perhaps we do not understand their contents in the same way as the people in the past. 

Choose your favourite among FiBO’s spring 2020 concerts, and motivate your choice.
In the concert The Garden of Love in February we will perform Alessandro Scarlatti’s serenata ”Il giardino d’amore”, which I played about 15 years ago in a production in the historical theater at the castle in Potsdam. Already then I wondered why such unbelievably beautiful music is so rarely performed. 

Do you have a “secret” special skill? 
I speak seven different languages, four of them excellently, and I get by with the other three. 

If you had to run the Cooper test or bake for a party of 30 people, which would you choose?
I would choose the easier one: baking is one of my favourite things to do. 

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