In the administrative model put in place in 2001, principal artistic responsibility in the Tapiola Sinfonietta rests not with a chief conductor but with the Artistic Board and the Repertoire Committee. This model is rare among orchestras, being found in only a few chamber ensemble sized orchestras in the world.
The Repertoire Committee plans and develops the orchestra’s operations in the long term, and the proposals of the Artistic Board are submitted to the Committee for approval. The Repertoire Committee includes the members of the Artistic Board, the 1st Leaders, four musician members and a representative of the Culture Committee of the City of Espoo. Orchestra administrators participate in the work of the Repertoire Committee insofar as it concerns their jobs.
Since 2001, artistic policy for the orchestra has been in the hands of the Artistic Board, which is responsible for programming and artistic development. The Board picks out concert programmes, guest conductors and guest soloists and puts them into a proposal submitted to the Repertoire Committee. The members of the Artistic Board are the General Manager and two musicians elected by the orchestra members. In the 2015–2016 season, they are Principal Bassoon Jaakko Luoma and Deputy Principal Double Bass Mikko Kujanpää.
"Simply put, the General Manager generally manages just about anything. Sometimes it really is life in the fast lane: the phone may beep with a text message late at night, announcing that a soloist has fallen ill and launching a frantic intercontinental search for a replacement (which is usually found even at one or two days’ notice). Any given day may involve work that concerns things that happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. Indeed, tours are planned two years in advance.
We always look to the future, but the General Manager also lives in the intoxicating ‘now’ moment of music. Being able to attend nearly 100 of our own concerts every year is a huge privilege and source of energy. Repertoire planning also requires visiting many other concerts and listening to recordings. All artistic personnel engaged must be carefully vetted in advance. Amidst all this, I am the orchestra’s representative at meetings of the culture division of the City of Espoo. My job as General Manager also includes laying the groundwork for continuous development and ensuring that the orchestra has favourable working conditions.
The General Manager has overall responsibility for the orchestra’s artistic planning, finances, communications, administration and HR, but everything is handled through broad-based cooperation. The Tapiola Sinfonietta is a largely self-governing orchestra, where artistic leadership is shared by a three-member group. There is a great deal of artistic planning expertise in the orchestra itself.
Leading a top team like the Tapiola Sinfonietta is both challenging and rewarding. We all do our work with pleasure, with skill and with dedication."
Helena Värri, Deputy General Manager
Artists in Association
The Artists in Association of the Tapiola Sinfonietta are conductors or musicians with whom the orchestra enters into close collaboration for a period of several years. The orchestra has been appointing Artists in Association since 2006. The first were pianist Olli Mustonen, violinist Pekka Kuusisto and conductor Stefan Asbury. In the 2015/2016 season, our Artists in Association are conductors Mario Venzago, pianist Alexander Melnikov and guitarist Marzi Nyman.
Mario Venzago has conducted the Sinfonietta in performances of major Romantic and Classical works at home and on tour in central Europe. Marzi Nyman is a genre-hopping guitar wizard who lends an extra edge to school concerts and joint productions.
Conductor Mario Venzago was appointed an Artist in Association of the Tapiola Sinfonietta in autumn 2010. Before that, he had spent seven successful seasons as Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Venzago is Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia in Newcastle and Chief Conductor of the Bern Symphony Orchestra. He regularly also guests with the world’s leading orchestras and at celebrated opera houses, such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and at La Scala, Milan. From 2004 to 2007 he was Chief Conductor of the Swedish National Orchestra in Gothenburg and from 1997 to 2003 Artistic Director of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, after which the orchestra made him its Conductor Laureate.
Mario Venzago’s wide-ranging discography has won him many major awards, such as a Diapason d’Or, two Grand Prix du Disque and the Edison Prize.
“Few things have inspired me as much as my association with the Tapiola Sinfonietta,” says pianist Alexander Melnikov. “To start with, Finland has always been a favourite country of mine. I love the way Finland sounds and smells, and I’m always in a good mood when I’m there – that’s by no means always a normal state for me. And then there’s this orchestra. I’ll never forget the first time I heard them, conducted by Mario Venzago and with Isabelle Faust as the soloist. At once I thought there’s another Finnish phenomenon, a chamber orchestra of truly international standard. I loved the way they play Brahms: there was none of the forced heaviness you often hear, but depth and elegance.
“A year later I had the opportunity to play Beethoven’s second piano concerto with the Tapiola Sinfonietta. It was pure pleasure! We agreed over many points of style, and it really felt as if we were playing chamber music. I’m greatly looking forward to doing lots of fine works with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, and I’m sure I, too, am going to learn a lot from this magnificent orchestra.”
Marzi Nyman - a Finnish guitarist, composer and singer - does not, perhaps, represent the conventional image of an Artist in Association to a classical chamber orchestra. But his mastery as a guitarist, singer, composer and arranger, and his light-music networks have been put to good use in producing concerts, especially those for the young. As our partnership grows deeper, his electric guitar will follow more classical lines in combination with a chamber orchestra.
“I feel deeply passionate about chamber and orchestral music,” he says. “When the Sinfonietta players invited me to be their partner, I had to pinch myself. My feelings had been reciprocated! The partnership is absolutely one of the biggest honours I have received. The contact with the players is extremely important to me, and I dream of even closer dialogue with them. I also hope that we may, at our concerts, hear a real “band” of which I am privileged to be a member. My feeling is this: ‘The playground is open: Come on in!’”
French conductor and violinist Jean-Jacques Kantorow was given the title of Honorary Conductor of the Tapiola Sinfonietta in 2011. He was the orchestra’s Artistic Director from 1993 to 1999 and its regular conductor from 2000 to 2006. His tenure was of crucial importance to the shaping of the sound of the Tapiola Sinfonietta. He also conducted the orchestra in a substantial number of recordings: of the 60 items in the discography, about one third were conducted by Kantorow. Apart from his conducting career, Kantorow is also a successful concert violinist and has won prizes in several international competitions.