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Nicholas Collon begins term as 9th Chief Conductor of the FRSO

RSO:n ylikapellimestari Nicholas Collon
RSO:n ylikapellimestari Nicholas Collon Picture by: Anton Sucksdorff Nicholas Collon

The 2021/2022 season of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra begins under the baton of its new Chief Conductor Nicholas Collon. This first season will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky's death, alongside a focus on Lotta Wennäkoski and a festival for Thomas Adès. Collon intends to build up his partnership with his new orchestra through mutual dialogue and listening.

Nicholas Collon and the FRSO first crossed paths four years ago: “I was blown away by its technical brilliance, astonishing precision and musical depth,” he says. The players were in turn impressed by his trust in them and his spontaneous and natural approach to music.

“To my mind, it’s my job to be the orchestra’s guide on a journey of discovery in which all have a specific role and all are allowed to speak. Ideally, we should just forget our roles and think only about the music.”

Three themes: Stravinsky, Adès and Wennäkoski

Each season, Collon will be focusing on three theme composers, one from the past and two from the present. One of the contemporary composers will always be a Finn. During the first season they are Igor Stravinsky, Thomas Adès and Lotta Wennäkoski.
“Stravinsky is a linchpin, as we say, a huge figure in 20th-century music. Of course we will play some of his most famous works that everybody knows, like The Firebird and Petrushka, but we also shine light on some lesser-known works, such as the little mini-opera Renard, or Oedipus Rex, which Esa-Pekka Salonen will be conducting at the end of our Stravinsky season in December.”
The FRSO will be devoting a festival to Thomas Adès, one of the world’s best-known contemporary composers. The programme for this will include the premieres of the Märchentänze and the chamber music work Three Berceuses. Three of the concerts will be conducted by Adès himself, and he will be the pianist in the late-night chamber music.
Representing Lotta Wennäkoski will be the premiere of her Harp Concerto, along with Flounce, Sedecim and Soie. “Wennäkoski creates a distinctive, colourful, and very unusual sound world, which I think is a really nice fit for the orchestra.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen premiere

On December 15, the FRSO will be premiering the Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra by Esa-Pekka Salonen, with Christoffer Sundqvist as the soloist. Scheduled for November is Symphony No. 7 by Paavo Heininen and for January is a new piano concerto by Sauli Zinovjev. In April the orchestra will premiere an orchestral work by Perttu Haapanen.
There will also be some new works in the chamber series: the first performance of Snow in Amazonia by Timo Hietala, and Sid Hille’s Begehren for mezzo-soprano and string quartet; the latter at the “MIND” chamber music festival masterminded by FRSO musicians.

Conductor debuts and celebrated violinists

The FRSO will be welcoming a host of celebrated violinists during Collon’s first season: Pekka Kuusisto in the premiere of the Adès Märchentänze, Patricia Kopatchinskaja playing Shostakovich and Lisa Batiashvili Szymanowski. Renaud Capuçon will be the soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto and Leila Josefowicz in the Stravinsky.
Other conductors down for the season include Herbert Blomstedt, Sakari Oramo, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Klaus Mäkelä. Debuting as conductors will be Anja Bihlmaier, Nathalie Stutzmann and Cristian Măcelaru.

Recordings of Adès, Wennäkoski and Sibelius

The FRSO’s partnership with the Ondine label will continue during Nicholas Collon’s term as Chief Conductor, with recordings of works by Sibelius, Adès and Wennäkoski. The Sibelius disc will comprise his Symphony No. 7, King Christian II Suite and Pelléas and Mélisande. The works by Adès to be recorded are the Märchentänze violin concerto, Lieux retrouvés for solo cello, and the Hotel Suite from his opera Powder her Face, and by Wennäkoski the orchestral Sedecim and Flounce, and her new Harp Concerto.

Rise in popularity of Yle Areena concert broadcasts in 2020

The weekly Yle Areena viewer figures for the FRSO’s concert broadcasts rose 24% in the Covid year 2020. The live-TV proportion was considerable, accounting for nearly a third. FRSO concerts will continue to be broadcast live during the forthcoming season, on Yle Radio 1, Yle Areena and later Yle Teema. Repeats of parts of the concerts will be shown on Yle TV 1 on Saturdays in the “FRSO at the Helsinki Music Centre” series, and on Tuesday evenings in the “FRSO on Stage” programme on Yle Radio 1.