Helsinki Philharmonic names first female chief conductor

Susanna Mälkki will take over the reins of the Nordic region’s oldest orchestra in early 2016.

Susanna Mälkki Image: Yle

The Helsinki City Council on Monday evening approved the appointment of Susanna Mälkki as the main conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (HPO). The contract calls for a three-year term from the beginning of 2016, with an option for two further seasons.

She is to conduct 8-10 concert productions annually as well as overseeing the orchestra’s tours and recordings. Mälkki will also share responsibility for the ensemble’s artistic planning with Gita Kadambi, who took over as its General Manager last year.

12th successor of Kajanus

Mälkki, 45, is now principle guest conductor at Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Orchestra and a frequent guest at the leading concert and opera halls of Europe and NorthAmerica. Until last year she was Music Director of the Ensemble InterContemporain, based inParis. She began her international career as principal cellist of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra before deciding to focus on conducting in 1998. She studied in London, Stockholm and Helsinki.

The HPO’s twelfth chief conductor, John Storgårds, has held the post for six years. The orchestra was founded by composer and conductor Robert Kajanus, a close associate of Jean Sibelius. Kajanus led the ensemble for half a century after establishing it in 1882.

The city's other main orchestra, Yle's own Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, was set up in 1927, a few years before Kajanus's retirement.