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Jyväskylän kaupunki » International » News » Jyväskylä Sinfonia: 60 years and no limits

Jyväskylä Sinfonia: 60 years and no limits

Founded 60 years ago, Jyväskylä Sinfonia is an adventurous city orchestra which crosses both artistic and geographic boundaries. Its spirited performances, which blend different art forms, have brought international fame.

Jyväskylä Sinfonia celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2015. The Finnish classical music scene also has other reasons to celebrate in 2015, because this year marks 150 years since the birth of composer Jean Sibelius, and Aulis Sallinen – a composer known for his operas – celebrates his 80th year.

Jyväskylä Sinfonia was founded in 1955 and consists of 38 musicians. Known for its bold and versatile repertoire, the orchestra is especially popular with audiences in Central Finland but also has devoted fans outside its own region. Its Wednesday concerts are usually held in Jyväskylä City Theatre, and the 550 seats are generally almost sold out. The average seat occupancy rate for the orchestra’s concerts at this venue, which was designed by Alvar Aalto, is around 95 per cent.

“Combining different musical styles, performing film scores and popular music, and blending different art forms have increased the orchestra’s popularity, especially during the 2000s. The popularity resulting from this broadened repertoire shows that Jyväskylä Sinfonia has to keep re-inventing itself – like other orchestras, it must find ways to positively surprise the audience at every concert,” says Kristiina Itäranta, Jyväskylä Sinfonia’s General Manager.

An example of the way Jyväskylä Sinfonia brings together different art forms is the Action Painting concert held with artist Tiina Osara in 2011. Osara painted a work at the same time as the orchestra performed music by Edward Elgar, Domenico Cimarosa and Richard Strauss. During the performance her brush strokes were projected onto the wall of the concert hall.

“Events like these have helped to raise our profile both within Finland and internationally. In particular, our critically acclaimed recordings have brought the orchestra to the attention of international audiences,” Itäranta states.

The orchestra crossed another artistic boundary in April when Markku Andersson, who had recently retired from his post as Mayor of Jyväskylä, took the speaking role in a performance of “Yllätysjuhlat” (The Surprise Party).

Music knows no boundaries

There’s no doubt that Jyväskylä Sinfonia is the city’s most international place of work. “Music knows no boundaries. The musicians in our orchestra are from more than eleven different countries: Ukraine, France, Japan, Poland... Many originally came as visiting musicians but then fell in love with the city and settled down permanently,” Kristiina Itäranta says.

International collaboration also extends to Jyväskylä Sinfonia’s recordings, where it works with companies like Naxos, which specialises in classical music. The orchestra has ongoing cooperation with a worldwide network of agents, one purpose being to attract visiting musicians.

“Musicians from all over the world come to our auditions. Recruitment is always based on artistic merit, and the judges only listen to the music – they don’t know who is playing. Our recruitment process supports the formation of an international working community.”

Performances near and far

Jyväskylä Sinfonia rapidly grew much more international during the period 2003–2012, when Frenchman Patrick Gallois was Chief Conductor. During his period at the helm, the orchestra undertook concert tours to a number of countries including Spain, France, and Japan. The current Chief Conductor Ville Matvejeff has maintained the international focus with concerts featuring world renowned soloists.

At the same time as the orchestra looks for new international dimensions, the musicians have to serve the audience in their home city in ever more versatile ways.

“In addition to its regular concerts, nowadays the orchestra has to go out and bring its music to places where the audiences are. Our smaller ensembles have brought the joy of music to audiences in places like shopping centres, mobile libraries, schools and old people’s homes. We occasionally perform concerts of light music with famous Finnish artists as soloists.”

A lot of background work has to be done to organise a concert featuring international soloists, and this work starts at least half a year before the concert. This time is needed because top soloists have full diaries and a few days have to be reserved for rehearsals. Travel tickets and accommodation also have to be booked in good time. Jyväskylä Sinfonia’s Chief Conductor is contracted to lead eight concerts in Jyväskylä each year, as well as recordings and tours. Metvejeff was appointed Chief Conductor in 2014 and his contract runs until the end of 2019. The orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, Moshe Atzmon, has a contract until at least the end of 2016.

Jyväskylä Sinfonia

In 2014 the orchestra performed at a total of 108 musical events, including 62 concerts. The events were enjoyed by a total of 28 003 listeners during the year. The orchestra’s discography consists of almost 40 recordings.

Recording companies it has worked with include Naxos.

www.jyvaskylasinfonia.fi

Words by Tommi Salo. The article was orginally published in the Jyväskylä On the Move magazine Summer / Autumn 2015.

7.8.2015Satu Heikkinen

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