Composer-conductor Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) came to conduct the Philharmonic Orchestra on 1st November 1907 while visiting St. Petersburg. The programme consisted of Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture and Symphony No. 5, and some Wagner: the overture to Tristan und Isolde, Isolde’s Liebestod, and the overture to Die Meistersinger. In other words, there was nothing by Mahler; maybe the orchestra was too small. The music of Mahler was not yet very well known in Finland.
In 1911, Kajanus was the first in the Nordic countries to conduct Mahler’s first symphony. Schnéevoigt, his successor, began featuring the Mahler symphonies more.
Great symphonies have been a subject for discussion in the orchestra in subsequent years as well. In 1963, Erkki Salmenhaara wondered in a review at the few Mahler and Bruckner symphonies in the Philharmonic Orchestra’s repertoire. It was not long before his criticism elicited a reply, for during his term as conductor (1965–1972), Jorma Panula conducted all the symphonies by both Mahler and Bruckner. In spring 1964, the orchestra was the first in Finland to perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 Song of the Night. In December 2015, John Storgårds ended his watch at the helm of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra with the same symphony, Mahler’s seventh.
Source: Einari Marvia & Matti Vainio – Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri 1882–1982