Born and bred in Helsinki, Susanna Mälkki begins the 2016/2017 season as the 13th Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Before turning to conducting, she studied the cello in Helsinki, Stockholm and London, won the Turku Cello Competition and played principal cello in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. The desire to conduct sparked off at an early age was, however, catching fire, with the consequence that she applied – and was accepted – for the Sibelius Academy’s conducting class.
The theme for Susanna Mälkki’s first season as Chief Conductor of the HPO is the French connection. “I want to put fine works together as a coherent entity, not just to hop from one piece or concert to the next,” she says. As she knows from her term as Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, French orchestras produce sound in a different way, just as Finnish orchestras have their own distinctive sound in playing Sibelius.
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1882 and with a history featuring a host of great names in Finnish music, is in Susanna Mälkki’s opinion a great source of pride for the whole of the Finnish capital.
“At an orchestral concert we encounter things together; we share experiences. An orchestra is like a live music library, open to all. Classical music has always been a fundamental element of Finland’s cultural identity, ever since the days of Sibelius.”