History of the Orchestra


Three decades of keeping up with the old times



Awareness of Baroque performing practice comes to Finland
In the end of the 1960s in Central Europe, especially in the Netherlands and Belgium, early music pioneers had begun to shake up the understanding of 17th and 18th century music and how it should be performed. As research results accumulated, it was experienced that music was felt deeper when the musical grammar of the Baroque time could be heard in the interpretations, and when the timbre of the instruments corresponded to the era of composition.  

In Finland, the awareness of Baroque performance practices first arrived with single enthusiasts, accompanied by a viewpoint of suitable resistance. The birth of the Finnish Baroque Orchestra was strongly affected by the Bach Week at the House of Nobility in 1985, organised by Helsinki Chamber Strings, after which a group of young musicians who were passionate about Baroque music – some were members of Helsinki Chamber Strings – started their own Baroque orchestra, led by Anssi Mattila, harpsichord lecturer at the Sibelius Academy. 

The Finnish Baroque Orchestra was founded in 1989. The first twenty years it was called the Sixth Floor Orchestra, named after the first practice hall. The orchestra debuted at the festival Music before the Romantic (Musiikkia ennen romantiikkaa) organised by Yle in the German Church of Helsinki in November 1989, performing three vibrant works: Capriccio stravagante by Carlo Farina, and Les élémens and Caprice by Jean-Féry Rebel. 

During the coming years in the 1990s, for the first time in Finland, great Baroque works were performed in the orchestra’s concerts in a manner where the performance style was more deeply inspired, beyond the information in the notation, by historical sources (HIP = historically informed performance).


The Baroque core repertoire and awareness of performance practices
In the 1990s, the orchestra took on familiar Baroque works, whose performance style required a complete airing. The quality-aware group of musicians eagerly dived into articulation, rhetoric, phrasing, tuning systems and questions about instruments. Finnish listeners got to enjoy concerts with e.g. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, Bach’s cantatas and Christmas Oratorio, Georg Friedrich Händel’s Messiah Oratorio, Arcangelo Corelli’s concerto grossos, Antonio Vivaldi’s concertos, and Henry Purcell’s odes. The objective was regularity, with four concerts yearly. 

One of the most prominent symbolic Baroque works, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, came into the repertoire for the first time in 1989. Since 2001, the orchestra has performed with the mixed choir Suomen Laulu at their traditional St. Matthew Passion concert. Bach’s Mass in b minor, on the other hand, was introduced in the orchestra’s repertoire in the spring of 2000, after which it has been performed with numerous choirs. Later on, the orchestra’s solid basic repertoire has been expanded with other great Baroque works for choir and orchestra. Some of these are performed almost yearly, such as Bach’s St. John Passion and Christmas Oratorio and Händel’s Messiah, which are performed with the most significant Finnish choirs. 

Already from the beginning, the orchestra took part in Baroque opera performances conducted by Anssi Mattila, which were carried out in cooperation with e.g. multi-artistic group Taite ry. At this time, Finland was presented with e.g. Les arts florissants by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Orpheus and Eurydice by Christoph Willibald Gluck, Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, Odysseus by Rebel, and Hercules, a compilation of Bach’s music. 

Fine rarities
Although a HIP aware performance of the basic repertoire was the young orchestra’s core, it was decided already early on that concerts would not only concentrate on already canonised works, and not only on familiar ways of making music, for that matter. Thus, exclusive rarities from the library archives of many countries have found their ways into the repertoire.  

In 2009, when 200 years had passed since Finland was incorporated into the Russian Empire, the orchestra, conducted by Tuomas Hannikainen, performed music composed in Sweden and Russia in the 19th century, in concerts seasoned with stage play elements. Both Aika on (It’s Time), based on Händel’s works, and the melodramatic Medea by Jiří Antonín Benda, touched the audience deeply. When Turku was the European Capital of Culture in 2011, the orchestra participated in a unique project, in which Italian composer Carlo Agostino Badia’s Opera d'Alvilda in Abo from 1692 was performed in its true location in Turku. Many others have also uncovered archive treasures: in the Baroque programs led by Georg Kallweit in the 2010s, the focus lied on the time before Bach. Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch, on the other hand, led Christoph Graupner’s lesser-known productions in concerts and on two albums. 

Towards Classicism in the 21st century
In the early 21st century, the orchestra broadened its expertise and instrumentation to fit also Classic repertoire. During Jukka Rautasalo’s era as Artistic Director, the majority of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s major symphonies were performed for the first time in Finland in versions that considered questions of style. 

Works by Bernhard Henrik Crusell, Erik Ferling and Erik Tulindberg were also performed and recorded. Tuomas Hannikainen continued expanding the repertoire to even later decades. In the suite Beethoven juurineen (Beethoven with roots), prepared by Hannikainen, the orchestra performed all the symphonies by Beethoven for the first time in Finland – of course with appreciation to the style of the time. The repertoire in concerts conducted by Hannikainen consisted of classic rarities found deep in the archives. 

Forwards – new music with old instruments
It was a long step to take, when the orchestra expanded its expression to new music, initiated by Markku Luolajan-Mikkola. Jukka Tiensuu’s Mora for tenor and large Baroque orchestra was performed at Helsinki Festival and Turku Music Festival, after which the piece has ended up on Finnish and international concert stages and on record. The knifonium concerto commissioned from Olli Virtaperko, and chamber concerts with contemporary music, rooted new music into the orchestra’s identity. Also during Antti Tikkanen’s era as Artistic Director, the orchestra premiered exciting new works by Jukka Tiensuu and Perttu Haapanen. Later on, the orchestra has taken as its mission to continuously commission new music for Baroque orchestra, from both Finnish and international composers. It has thus expanded the use of period instruments, and has added a valuable element to the range of expression of Baroque orchestras that profile as living art. 

Contemporary music has also appeared into the orchestra’s repertoires from other directions: a Bach-Pärt program was heard at Turku Music Festival in 2011, and at the contemporary music festival Présences in Paris, organised by the French radio in February 2017, Saariaho and Purcell were performed side by side. In 2012, the light opera Fitness by Kirmo Lintinen was performed in cooperation with Opera Skaala. Indie-pop and the Baroque instrument timbre, on the other hand, were combined in the performance of Nico Muhly’s collection Confessions at Helsinki Festival in 2017. 

In the summer of 2018, FiBO visited the contemporary music festival Time of Music in Viitasaari, where German composer Sarah Nemtsov’s beyond its simple space for harpsichord, Baroque orchestra and electronics, commissioned on the initiative of Petteri Pitko, was premiered. In addition, many other contemporary works were heard, and the special mention goes to the Finnish premiere of Heiner Goebbels’ piece The Songs of Wars I Have Seen. Nemtsov’s work and Max Richter’s Four Seasons Recomposed were performed at the Musica nova festival in Helsinki in February 2019.

The orchestra has also recorded new music. The second record in the FiBO Records series, Helsinki Window, for instance, was completely dedicated to new music composed for period instruments. 


Imaginative program combinations and encounters between arts
If the juxtaposition of Baroque and contemporary music has inspired FiBO’s program designers, folk music has also obtained foothold in the repertoire planning. Together with Kudsi Erguner, FiBO searched for the roots of music and folk music through Turkish and Baroque music, after which the encounter between Finnish folk music and Baroque was processed in the program The Birth of the World. 

The King Trilogy left its mark in the orchestra’s multi-levelled history book of competence in 2014. The suite of three concerts examined the essence of power in cooperation with the Meta4 quartet. The divine and imperial power, that may even lead to madness, found its musical or theatrical expressions in concerts at Helsinki Music Centre and the House of Nobility.

The Finnish Baroque Orchestra has functioned as main organiser for two multinational and multi-disciplinary art projects initiated by Encanto Music ry: in 2015, Ignaz Pleyel’s puppet fairy opera Die Fee Urgele was performed for children and adults in Lahti and Espoo, seasoned with poetic narration. In 2018, Händel’s oratorio Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno was realised in Nuremberg and Helsinki, coloured with video and spatial elements.  

With Finnish forces, the orchestra dived into the theme of love and gender roles in the concert Mary Magdalene or Salvation, in a dialogue between speech and music. Dancing Queen and From Russia with love have brought out the ingenuity of Petteri Pitko, as the red thread of the concert programs leads to the historical roots of the courts of Queen Christina or St. Petersburg, while the concert title reflects how open-mindedly the orchestra throws itself into different eras. 

Sometimes, what is small, is large. When FiBO founded the FiBO Singers group, it tried out something new again. In addition to the Dancing Queen program, the group of singers has performed Händel’s Messiah in chamber music format with eight singers and an ensemble of ten players. Local choirs from the tour localities joined in the Hallelujah chorus. 

The residence orchestra of the House of Nobility
The home hall is an important place alongside all the diversity. Thanks to the Von Bonsdorff Family Trust, the orchestra started a regular concert tradition at the House of Nobility in 2014. The environment and acoustics of the House of Nobility are well fitted for a Baroque orchestra, and the six yearly concerts are very popular among the audience. The audiences at the House of Nobility have been spoiled with fantastic leaders and soloists, and with versatile programs. 

Audience outreach and influence work in a twenty-year-old orchestra
In 2008, the orchestra was at a point where the awareness of performance practices of music from different eras and the related skills had reached many professional musicians, but the effects were not yet visible in music schools, which use immense amounts of Baroque repertoire. At that time, there was also a growing need to employ graduated and graduating Baroque musicians in Finland. The resilient repertoire of the Baroque orchestra, and the possibilities to function as a forerunner for audience outreach in classical music, like in some other active orchestras, gave birth to a team called FiBO Collegium, which created an adaptable and inclusive education concept with repertoires and arrangements. 

The most striking productions of the team have been the Concerto Grosso spectacles, in which masters and disciples have made music side by side in an orchestra of several hundred players, in Helsinki, Espoo and Oulu. The 10-year-old team’s activities culminated in the winter of 2018–2019, in the Nordic concert suite Viking Barokk in four Nordic capitals. The Concerto Grossos also offered surprising encounters with e.g. gymnasts, circus artists and theater artists. 

The Finnish Baroque Orchestra has carried out audience outreach projects in various forms throughout its existence, and they have been everything from lying-down-concerts to music in people’s homes, from children’s concerts to courses, and many kinds of events in various places and with different partners. The participants have been day care children, school children, seniors, institution residents, audiences yearning deeper information, and students. The orchestra has been a national forerunner in developing new kinds of concepts. The projects of FiBO Collegium, the audience outreach musician team which has functioned since 2008, have become so independent that from 2019, some of the orchestra’s audience outreach projects will continue through the newly founded association Collegium. 

The era of growing in volume, building structure, and establishing
Wide networks, high quality, persistent structural development, and ingenious repertoire politics describe the 2010s in the Finnish Baroque Orchestra. The orchestra has taken big steps forward in pursuing the employment objectives for Baroque musicians, and to bring Baroque music into the reach of as many as possible. When in the early times, the orchestra dreamt of four yearly concerts, in the 2010s, it has even taken part in one hundred projects per year, including audience outreach events. 

About 40 musicians were appointed to the orchestra in 2014, which created the base for developing a democratic artistic management model, including the artistic direction team consisting of three musicians from the orchestra. As the artistic content has grown, so has the office administration, and different technical platforms have been developed in order to guarantee the professionality. The brave ideas have concerned everything from own projects to new partnerships, such as cooperation with Avanti and UMO Jazz Helsinki Orchestra, without forgetting numerous partner municipalities and parishes. 


Festivals and tour concerts in Finland
The orchestra has performed at all the most significant festivals in Finland. For many years, Helsinki Festival  has belonged to the orchestra’s partners. Some other festival partners are Turku Music Festival, Kuhmo Chamber Music, Crusell Music Festival, Korsholm Music Festival, Musiikkia linnassa (Music in the Castle Festival), Music before the Romantic, Janakkala Baroque, BRQ Vantaa Festival, Lieksa Brass Week, Time fo Music in Viitasaari, Tuusulanjärvi Chamber Music, Riihimäki Summer Concerts, Baroque Labyrinths Festival, the Beethoven Festival by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Les Lumières. Kymijoen Lohisoitto Festival has been a regular partner since 2010. 

In 2010, the orchestra began arranging Vantaa Music Festival, organised in August and concentrating on early music. The name was changed to BRQ Vantaa Festival in 2013, and in the following year, the festival became a separate association. 

The Finnish Baroque Orchestra has also performed in numerous other localities in concerts organised by municipalities, parishes or concert halls, and in the most important halls, such as Helsinki Music Centre, Tampere Hall, Kuusamo Hall, Kaukametsä Culture and Congress Centre in Kajaani, Oulu Music Centre, Verkatehdas and the City Hall in Hämeenlinna, and in Järvenpää Hall. 

International concerts
The Finnish Baroque Orchestra has increasingly performed also outside of Finland. It has visited Spain, Iceland, Italy, Austria, China, Latvia, Norway, France, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Russia and Estonia. 

Prizes and awards
The orchestra has received awards, prizes and praising reviews in both the Finnish and international media throughout its history. The concert reviews have been laudatory. In 2000, 

the Sixth Floor Orchestra received Yle’s Musical Act of the Year award for the performance of the opera Ulysses. The record Classical Age in Finland was chosen for Yle’s Record of the Year in 2001, and it also received the Janne award for audio and visual record producers. Yle’s Record of the Year mention was also awarded the record with suites by Graupner, which was produced in 2013, led by Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch. Moramoramor, the first record in the FiBO Records series, reached the final of Yle’s Record of the Year. 

Helsinki Window (Haapanen/Tiensuu/Nemtsov): Finnish Baroque Orchestra (FiBO Records, 2019)
Dussek, Concerto for two pianos & chamber works: Alexei Lubimov & Olga Pashchenko (fortepiano), Finnish Baroque Orchestra (Alpha, 2018)
Moramoramor (Bach/Tiensuu/Vivaldi): Antti Tikkanen (violin, viola and leading), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Finnish Baroque Orchestra (FiBO Records, 2017)
Graupner, Trio sonatas (Ondine, 2014)
Graupner, Orchestral suites (Ondine, 2013)
Beethoven, Symphonies 4 and 8 (Rondo, 2009)
Mozart, Gran Partita (Alba, 2005)
Vivaldi, Concertos (Alba, 2001)
Classical age in Finland (Ondine, 2001)
Italian Chamber Music (Kuhmo Chamber Music, 1992)
Music by Telemann (Classica, 1994)

Recorded concerts can be found on the orchestra’s YouTube account.


Artistic Direction
During the era of Anssi Mattila (1989–2000), the orchestra’s founder, the basic Baroque repertoire, also opera, was seen in HIP performances. The newly founded orchestra fought with many challenges: it was not easy to find musicians that were specialised in period instruments and Baroque. 

During Jukka Rautasalo’s era (2001–2004), the repertoire was expanded from Baroque to Classicism. The musicians learned about the new instrument selection, and there were more and more skilled musicians that were interested in period music. Thanks to active concert management from the artistic director, the orchestra’s production volume grew. 

Tuomas Hannikainen’s era (2005–2009) continued Jukka Rautasalo’s expansion of repertoire knowledge in a natural manner. The archives offered rarities alongside Beethoven’s symphonies. 

Markku Luolajan-Mikkola’s era (2010–2013) can be described as a time of growth and the birth of new concepts. The orchestra’s activities broke all records, and the economic capacities improved thanks to the work of several people. The repertoire continued expanding, with the new addition of contemporary music, especially commissioned pieces dedicated to the Finnish Baroque Orchestra. During this time, main guests Georg Kallweit and Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch also led orchestra projects and planned the repertoire.  

During Antti Tikkanen’s era (2014–2017), the organisational culture in the orchestra was transformed. The musicians were more established, and Tikkanen gradually increased the responsibilities of the orchestra musicians. Concerts were performed more and more with leaders, without a conductor. There were more concerts planned by the orchestra’s musicians. Antti Tikkanen laid the foundation for an even more democratic administrative model. 

Since the beginning of 2018, the Finnish Baroque Orchestra has been led by an executive team, which includes two rotating orchestra musicians, and an Executive Manager, who concentrates on administrative tasks. Focus is on internationalisation and on the essence of the core message. In 2018 and 2019, the executive team consisted of Artistic Director Petteri Pitko, Artistic Planner Pauliina Fred, and Executive Manager Laura Kajander. 

Guest soloists and directors
In 1998–2009, the development of the Sixth Floor Orchestra was affected by, in addition to its conductors, numerous guests, such as conductors Tõnu Kaljuste, Andrew Lawrence-King, Andrew Manze, instrument soloists Gabriele Gassone, Jaap ter Linden and Omar Zaboli, and singers Mikael Bellini, David Cordier and Ian Honeyman. Some of the best Finnish top musicians in early music were also soloists, such as fortepiano player Tuija Hakkila and flutist Mikael Helasvuo, and singers Anu Komsi, Topi Lehtipuu and Petteri Salomaa.

The growth since 2010 has brought the orchestra several new inspiring soloists. Some of them are Myriam Arbouz, Tindaro Capuano, Björn Colell, Wolfgang Gaisböck, Delphine Galou, Karina Gauvin, Ilya Gringolts, Fernando Guimarães, Erich Hoeprich, Nicholas Isherwood, Arttu Kataja, Marianne Beate Kielland, Piia Komsi, Margret Köll, Susanne Langner, Tuuli Lindeberg, Aleksei Ljubimov, Scott Mello, Olga Paštšenko, Sandrine Piau, Krzysztof Stencel, Yeree Suh and Hendrickje Van Kerckhove.

Some of FiBO’s previous conductors and leaders are Alfredo Bernardini, Amandine Beyer, Justin Doyle, François Fernandez, Paul Hillier, Juha Kangas, Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch, Georg Kallweit, Topi Lehtipuu, Hannu Lintu, Sergey Malov, Ville Matvejeff, Meta4 Quartet, Johannes Meissl, Nico Muhly, Andres Mustonen, Cibrán Sierra-Vázquez, Peter Spissky and John Storgårds.

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